Baby's Got a Gun (1980) ***1/2
Overproduced and containing a sickening country duet ("Fools") in a belated, half-hearted attempt at pop crossover success, the third and final Only Ones album is clearly their weakest, but the step down isn't that drastic: it captures a band hewing to the same formula the third time in a row with predictably diminishing returns, yet the formula has yet to grow stale. No doubt that if the Only Ones had carried on into the '80s the albums would have bread-molded staler and staler, as their conventional hard rock/power pop could by derivative definition progress no further - so this is an effective and appropriate a swansong: a band quitting not on top, but just on the downcurve, so fans aren't likely to be left with bitter regrets of what-could've-beens. The Only Ones were exhausted as a band and Peter Perrett was dredging the last good tunes from his songwriting well. But by no means is this a bad album - fans of the first two will find plenty to enjoy here, as the differences aren't that great. It's simply not a great album. Not that the Only Ones could have crossed over to the mainstream with this album, either: when the catchiest song rings around the chorus, "Why don't you kill yourself / You ain't no good to no one else," radios aren't spinning in motion. "Big Sleep," may in fact be Perrett's most successfully realized creepster ballad; "Me and My Shadow," effectively thuds rockingly along to a Bo Diddley thump; and the closer, "My Way Out of Here," lilts a lovely melody-chorus refrain. Truth told, aside from "Fools" (yech!) and the useless Bad Company-ish plodder, "Re Union," there's little to dislike on this set. There's not a whole lot to jump up and get excited about, either, but on the whole it is solidly pleasing. Let me put it less ambivalently: did you like the first two Only Ones albums? Then you'll like this one, too. Only not as much.