The dB's - Falling Off the Sky Review
Posted by C.A. Bell on 06.20.2012
Almost twenty years after their last record together, the dB's (stands for decibels) are poised to make a comeback and finally enjoy their day in the sun. Does the new material stand up to their legacy? Find out as 411's Chris Bell explores Falling Off the Sky
A few months ago at Earubddy we put together a 'best of' list for the first quarter of 2012. In it, we were asked what album we were most anticipating later in the year. This was my response.
New York’s dB’s originally hit the scene in that period of the late-seventies when everything seemed slightly askew. Though the group is definitely rooted in power pop, they include elements of punk and funk that make the picture just slightly hazy. Falling From the Sky will be the band’s first record in twenty-five years and I am stoked. Like the fantastic reunion of The Feelies last year, The dB’s are set to show these kids just how good a band can be.
I would just like to make this official and say...ahem...I was right. I was really, really right. For the first time since 1982's Repercussion, the original lineup of the dB's has come back together for a new record. You may not recognize them as you once knew them. It's only fair. Repercussion was released before I was even a year old. If we are to expect a group to constantly evolve with each new album, how could you complain when it happens with an entire lifetime between records?
That being said, I think I actually prefer what we are seeing here on Falling Off The Sky over almost anything the group has done (save maybe their fantastic debut Stands For Decibels). There is absolutely no trickery or genre pretension with the music the group is making today. They are crafting top-notch pop songs that are saved from becoming cheesy by a sort of roughshod edge to the Mitch Easter production and a feeling that this is really just four guys having fun playing together again.
I've offered diatribes about this topic before when discussing groups like Imperial Teen and Wild Flag, but I'll say it again for good measure; this best music is made by democracy. Groups that freely offer each member equal time in the spotlight are almost always going to create something better than ones that are little more than id projects for a single member. Falling Off The Sky is a perfect example of the former.
The voices are Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple (the dB's two primary songwriters) are certainly present, but they never overtake the proceedings. As a matter of fact, it seems that the group specifically chose understated performances in an effort to let everyone shine. So, while the slight, jangly guitar performances are great throughout, you also get amazing percussion from Will Rigby on "I Didn't Mean To Say That" and solid bass lines from Gene Holder on "The Power of Love". Rising from this sort of instrumental equality is also a reminder of just how good Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple are together as songwriters. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that has heard either of the great records the two have made together since the dB's demise. These guys have kept growing throughout their careers, and together they might be the closest thing we have today to Lennon and McCartney (or more likely Chilton and Bell).
I feel a little dirty making a comparison like that. It just seems somewhat hack. But it also isn't too far off. The song "The Adventures of Albatross and Doggerel" is nothing if not a harder rocking version of something you'd find on Sgt. Pepper's. With Big Star however, the case is a lot stronger. From the generation immediately before Stamey and Holsapple, Alex Chilton and Chris Bell were also hugely influential power pop icons that were only truly recognized well after their band's demise. You'll find sly references to Big Star throughout Falling Off The Sky (take a listen to the guitar riff on "Before We Were Born"). As to the influential part, just try and listen to songs like "The Wonder of Love" or "Send Me Something Real" without thinking about the most earnest moments from artists like Jonathan Coulton, Ween, and the Honeydogs. Unlike Bell and Chilton, Stamey and Holsapple are still around for us to enjoy, and they just keep getting better as they go.
Falling Off The Sky isn't a celebration of what the dB's have done before. This is a pure statement of where the band is today. Best yet, it gives me a reason to hold hope for more in the future. The dB's have plenty enough in the tank to avoid using laurels as a crutch. That is exactly why Falling Off The Sky is one of the best records that will be released this year.
"That Time Is Gone"
"The Wonder Of Love"
"Send Me Something Real"
"She Won't Drive In The Rain"
The 411: After a far too long hiatus, the Power Pop kings of the American Underground have returned in a big, bad way. The band is obviously having fun playing together again and the songwriting is top notch. I think the dB's just released one of the best records of the year.