Music preview: The Paybacks

On "Knock Loud" the Detroit garage band combines high-energy rock with lyrics that are disarmingly compassionate and profoundly desperate. Listen in.

Published October 1, 2002 6:05PM (EDT)

The Paybacks
Knock Loud

Out now on Get Hip Records

For some women, a guitar and a microphone offer a chance to out-macho the testosterone-poisoned, cock-rocking descendents of the Rolling Stones. They seek their power in the expression of raw anger or over-the-top sexual prowess and spend their time trying to prove how tough they are. Paybacks vocalist Wendy Case seems to have the opposite problem, struggling against type to show that she has a softer side. Case's efforts may not be convincing, but they sure are a hell of a lot of fun to listen to.

"Knock Loud" opens with a brief intro by the band's most blistering instrument, Case's voice, errupting, "Just you wait til I get home." Delivered with the ferocity of a woman ready to kick your ass, the song quickly becomes something very different -- a plea to a lover for a second chance, an unpersuasive but emotional promise to get over her problems with commitment and difficulty expressing her feelings. These traits, too, are male stereotypes, but not the kind you usually hear women singing about. While, for example, the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O is the bratty girl who taunts "As a fuck, son, you suck," Case is seeking forgiveness for inflicting more permanent damage. Karen O's ex will get over his humiliation. Wendy Case's ex is probably contemplating suicide.

The Paybacks combine loud, energetic music with lyrics that are disarmingly compassionate and profoundly desperate. But "Knock Loud" is the best kind of blues -- backed by hard-charging rock 'n' roll that will make you want to grab another beer, turn up the stereo a little louder and scream right along.

By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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