Saturday, June 30, 2012


The cult favourites of the 80's return for the first time since the group disbanded in 1988, although leaders Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey have maintained solid, though quiet careers since.  They are both go-too guys for anyone looking for the classic power pop sound, having come out of the early scene that spawned R.E.M. and the like.  Holsapple's credits include time in the group The Continental Drifters, and auxiliary roles with acts such as Hootie and the Blowfish, John Hiatt, and being a major help with R.E.M. during their breakthrough Out Of Time period.  Stamey, as well as playing, is an in-demand producer/engineer, with his name appearing on discs by Yo La Tengo, Big Star, Alejandro Escovedo, Matthew Sweet, and dozens of underground acts looking for that magic jangle the duo helped pioneer.  The best news is that this is the original four-piece, with bass player Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby from the classic line-up.

Putting this new album out must have felt like walking into their old high school for the group.  They return to the rich guitar-pop with ease, coming up with harmony and hooks galore over the dozen tracks.  What distinguishes this kind of alt-pop, the bookish cousin of punk, is adding exactly the right amount of underground edge (like, a pinch), to basic 60's Top 40.  So such studio chefs as these boys take all they learned listening to The Byrds and The Beatles, and instead of making it big and celebratory like Springsteen and Tom Petty, they turn it inward, back to the studio, and go for introspective.

That doesn't mean it can't rock.  In fact, they groove and pound, just not in a grandiose way.  That Time Is Gone is a mid-60's Stones rave, crossed with Sir Douglas Quintet organ.  Before We Were Born has T. Rex strut in the verses, with a nasty guitar solo too, but with a pretty-as-a-picture chorus and a dreamy bridge.  That's a great formula; hard cut with soft, akin to the loud-quiet-loud that worked so well for The Pixies and Nirvana.

When they aren't finding these sweet chords and supple melodies to wrap their pipes and guitars around, they've drafted some killer ballads, which linger with melancholy.  She Won't Drive In The Rain Anymore draws you in with a sad story of a single mom trapped, by the weather sometimes, but mostly fear.  That's another hallmark of the band, and the genre, wonderful sounds with thoughtful lyrics.  With all this, it's no wonder dB's 2012 sounds as fresh as dB's 1982, and how well the group, now and then, has stood the test of time.

No comments:

Post a Comment