The dBs Waste No Time On “Falling Off The Sky”

In their first record release since Ronald Reagan was president, the dBs kick off Falling Off The Sky with a Peter Holsapple gem called “That Time Is Gone,” reminding us in a single song how much we’ve missed them.  They didn’t have to start with a Southern garage rocker, though the video of their performance at SXSW that’s bounced around the web gave an indication of why they’d want to start the album with maybe its best song.  But if a single slice of the apple can give people who may have missed them the first time around a sense of the band’s full flavors, “That Time Is Gone” is an incredibly tasty morsel.

You see, what has always made the dBs so special wasn’t that they were a two-songwriter band that alternated wondrously hummable pop songs with surprisingly kick ass rock’n’roll.  The secret to the band has always been that beneath Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple’s songwriting and singing was one of the best rhythm sections around.  Back in 1979, a band like the Plimsouls could offer, on paper, a fair bit of what the dBs brought to the party, but without Gene Holder on bass and Will Rigby’s special rum punch drumming, everything by comparison sounded flat.

Special too was the way the dBs were a crankily coherent outpost of Winston-Salem, North Carolina living in Manhattan.  They were playing pop songs at the same time the Bush Tetras were playing the Mudd Club, but the music was so infectious, and the band so fantastic live, any given evening that they played was an event.  This may be heretical to say, given that Stands For Decibels and other albums they put out have attracted such a cult following over the years, but they never really delivered on vinyl the magic they showed on stage.  Those first albums sounded just a bit too thin, too caffeinated.  And later, when Stamey had left the band for a solo career that produced, in Its Alright, probably the best record any semblance of the band ever created, the Holsapple-led dBs was missing something, that counterweight to Peter’s songwriting proving, over the course of a single record, to matter.  Peter’s songwriting was so magnificent that the few songs of his Syd Straw sang on the Golden Palominos records helped define the ’80s, but Stamey and Holsapple, friends and rivals, needed one another to hold a band in equipoise.

And now they’re back, and man do they sound good.  Falling Off The Sky is like a time capsule fallen back to Earth.  Head out to the mound, still smoking from where the space debris just hit it, and stand back in wonder.  Or better yet, go to Iota in Arlington Thursday night and see the Second Coming.

One Response to “The dBs Waste No Time On “Falling Off The Sky””

  1. A time capsule fallen back to Earth, how apt. Thanks John, I downloaded the new album from iTunes last week and am enjoying every track . . . and 80s memories of the live performances with you.

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