Rodney Crowell's debut was a near perfect country-rock record: great writing and a few venerable covers all performed with soul and style. But while Ain't Living Long Like This leaned more toward the country side of things, his follow-up, But What Will the Neighbors Think, which was co-produced with Craig Leon (the Ramones, Suicide, Blondie), has a distinct pop and rock edge. This is evident right from the start, with the chunky guitar and drum intro of "Here Come the 80s," which opens the album with an almost new wave feel. When mixed with Crowell's country roots and choice of sidemen, the bulk of side one, which includes tracks such as the cynical rockers "Ain't No Money" and "It's Only Rock'n'Roll" and the minor-key pop of Keith Sykes' "Oh What a Feeling," blurs the lines between Nashville and L.A.. Side two, which kicks off with the Top 40 pop hit "Ashes by Now," adds a bit more twang to the proceedings with Guy Clark's "Heartbroke" and Hank DeVito's "Queen of Hearts" (Crowell's version predated Juice Newton's Top Five hit by more than a year), before closing with a pair of lightweight genre exercises. Much like Rosanne Cash's Right or Wrong, which he had produced a year earlier, there are moments here that suggest the turn country music would take in the coming years. In fact, "Queen of Hearts," "Ain't No Money," and "Heartbroke" would become hits in the next couple of years for Newton, Cash, and Ricky Skaggs respectively, while Lee Ann Womack would score big with "Ashes by Now" more than 20 years later. Though it may not necessarily be what some expected from Rodney Crowell at this point, the slight change of direction seemed to help him avoid a sophomore slump.
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AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach