by the dB’s Bar/None Records
The term “Power Pop” was coined by Pete Townshend as a way
to describe the style of music The Who played in the mid 60’s. Other purveyors
included the Small Faces, the Kinks and the Beach Boys. But the
sound originated with the Beatles.
Power Pop is characterized by strong melodies, crisp vocal harmonies,
economic arrangements, and crunchy guitar riffs. In the 70’s, the Power Pop
torch was carried by the Raspberries, Big Star, Todd Rundgren, and Cheap Trick.
But the genre reached it’s peak with the Knack’s 1979 smash hit “My Sharona.”
The next wave of Power Pop included the Plimsouls, 20/20,
Paul Collins Beat and the dB’s.
The dB’s formed in 1978 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and was
co-piloted by Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple, both on guitar and vocals.
The original line-up included Will Rigby on drums and Gene Holder on bass.
After relocating to New York City, the dB’s recorded two instant
classics: “Stands For Decibels” and “Repercussion.” Despite the critical
acclaim, commercial success eluded the quartet and the dB’s quietly broke up.
But those two albums ended up influencing everyone from R.E.M. and
Matthew Sweet, to Smithereens and the Fountains Of Wayne.
Happily, Power Pop fanatics can rejoice because the dB’s have
reunited and released the excellent “Falling Off The Sky.”
The album kicks into gear with the one-two punch of
“That Time Is Gone” and “Before We Were Born.” On the former, crunchy
guitars, swirling Voxx organ and a tick-tock rhythm lay a foundation for Holsapple’s
deadpan vocals. Ironically, the lyrics caution the listener about the pitfalls
of pining for the past. But the melody screams 1973!
Descending power chords anchor “Before We Were Born.”
“Are You ready for the news, it’s hidden in the words I sing/the chords I ring.”
As Stamey’s lyrics assay the powerful feelings of déjà vu, a muscular backbeat
and Wurlitzer piano flourishes and colors the tilt-a-whirl instrumentation.
Although Holsapple and Stamey are the dB’s primary songwriters,
Will Rigby contributes the stand-out, “Write Back.” A withering critique of
internet love affairs, euphoria, betrayal and comeuppance all play out through
e-mail. Underneath, Rigby’s veiled contempt, soaring organ and pounding drums
collide with stringent guitar riffs.
Most of “Falling Off The Sky” stays within the rigid structure of
Power Pop. But a couple songs expand the instrumental boundries: Holsapple’s
“Wonder Of Love” improbably mixes a horn section with snaking guitar lines.
The lyrics are a smarty-pants ode to the simplicity of love… “It isn’t metallurgy, it
isn’t rocket surgery/ It isn’t as hard as you make it sound.”
The horn section pivots from Mariachi to Stax-Volt in 60 second s flat!
Stamey’s “Collide-oOo-Scope,” is an oscillating soundscape that
incorporates Tubular Bells into the proceedings.
“Far Away And Long Ago,” also written by Chris Stamey is a yearning
song about lost love. “Now the days are empty and inverted, Now the nights
are long.” The instrumentation is colored by plaintive violins and a sitar-like
guitar solo. It wouldn’t seem out of places on the Beatles “Rubber Soul” album.
“Send Me Something Real,” returns to the familiar Power pop landscape.
Guitar riffs ricochet like a pinball through rueful lyrics and a ringing chorus.
“World To Cry” is piloted by jingle-jangle 12 –string guitar flourishes
that recalls the Byrds at their mid 60’s peak.
The highlight of “Falling…” is Holsapple’s gorgeous , country-tinged
“I Didn’t Mean To Say That.” The lyrics tentatively examine a relationship that
has reached a plateau. With stutter drums and bass as the foundation , plangent
guitar lines cloak the words of regret.
Other great songs include the droning and assertive “The Adventures Of
Albatross And Doggerel” and “She Won’t Drive In The Rain Anymore.” The latter
blends a martial rhythm track with percolating guitars and literary lyrics.
“Falling Off The Sky” closes with a title track of sorts:
“Remember (Falling Off The Sky),” weds wistful words, an accelerating backbeat
and blistering guitar riffs. The melody starts slow but picks up speed barreling
towards a satisfying conclusion.
More than 30 years since they broke up, the dB’s have made
their triumphant return. “Falling Off The Sky” is an unmitigated success, both
timely and timeless.