Boston's Downbeat 5 have been around the block enough times to have participated in two different Nuggets revivals -- lead guitarist and primary songwriter J.J. Rassler was in DMZ, Boston's primary contribution to the late-'70s post-punk snot rock wave, not to mention the almighty Queers -- but their 2003 debut album has the spitfire energy of a bunch of hopped-up kids in a garage. Jen Rassler's yowling voice (think of Paula Pierce in the Pandoras' early, pre-metal days) fits the scrape and clang of the guitars perfectly, and the rhythm section is surprisingly fluid for this kind of music (rather like the early Stooges, who were always rhythmically looser and more supple than their straight 4/4 brethren), which ratchets up these songs' power considerably. The twin pinnacles are the poppy "Don't Come Cryin' to Me," a garage punk standard in waiting, and the East Coast surf powerhouse "99 River Street." At 14 songs in 41 minutes, Ism might possibly overstay its welcome just a hair, but overall, it's one of the strongest debuts of this decade's garage rock revival.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason