20/20 – 20/20 / Look out! (twofer) (Real Gone / Epic) review
The Power Pop genre is littered with legendary bands with sub-par albums. Even the mighty Raspberries, who crafted some of the greatest singles of the style, had spotty records. That’s what makes this new reissue of 20/20 and Look Out! from Real Gone Music such a welcome surprise. Although rarely mentioned in the same breath as stalwarts like Big Star or the Shoes, the band’s first two albums rival anything from even the most legendary of melodic bands.
Guitarist Steve Allen and bassist Ron Flynt were from the same town (Tulsa, Oklahoma) that spawned the Dwight Twilley Band. Inspired by the success of that band, the guys moved to LA and teamed with drummer Mike Gallo to form 20/20. The band signed with Portrait and recorded their debut self titled album in 1979.
The album opens with the horribly dated “The Sky is Falling” – it sounds like a vintage Atari video game explosion. But, don’t let that dissuade you – the album quickly rebounds with their signature track, the bouncy “Yellow Pills” – featuring chiming guitars, tight background harmonies and a pulsing synthesizer. Yet, things get even better with the next few tracks – “Cheri” starts with crunching Cheap Trick-style guitars and big drums and has a killer chorus. The band shows off their gentle side with the gorgeous Beatles’ inspired “Tell Me Why (Can’t Understand You),” which cleverly stutters the word “t-t-t-tell” to great effect. Things heat up with the insistent “Remember the Lightning.” Everything on their debut rocks and is full of melody. Unfortunately, nothing from this record became a hit.
The band smoothed out some of their rough edges for the followup, Look Out! The synthesizer is a more prominent instrument throughout – yet songs like “Beat City” rock just as hard as their first album. There are some darker moments here, especially in “A Girl Like You” and “Tonight I Heard Her Scream.” For those that already own bot 20/20 albums, they’ve included two rare tracks – “Child’s Play,” and “People in Your Life,” which were only available on a promo single.
Unbelievably, there’s not a bad song on the entire disc. If you’re a fan of mid-period Beatles, Badfinger, Cheap Trick, or really any rock n’ roll that’s dominated by melody – you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this great reissue. –Tony Peters