12:23pm

Tue July 3, 2012
Music Reviews

The dB's: Still Plaintive After All These Years

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 3:05 pm

If there was any doubt that The dB's have any use for being considered through the haze of memory, or limited to the misty fondness from fans who remember them from the early 80s, the blast that opens their new album Falling Off the Sky, a song called "That Time Is Gone," could not be more explicit. Group leaders Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, along with drummer Will Rigby and bassist Gene Holder, are taking back their sound after 30 years, sprucing it up and re-exploding it for the days we live in now.

"Write Back" is a rare dB's song from Will Rigby, and at first you think the detail that's going to date his tale of romantic epistolary correspondence is the notion of "writing a letter." But Rigby slyly refers to having his "email cached," and still manages to retain the nice, slight pun of "writing back" and coming "right back" built into that lovely piece of jangling pop. The dB's, if they can be said to have a uniting theme in their music over the years, return again and again to the tricks lovers play on each other, the vehement desire for truth and earnestness instead of coyness or the tiresome playing hard to get. You can hear it ring out on Chris Stamey's "Send Me Something Real."

As if composing an answer record to his comrade, Peter Holsapple immediately follows up that song with an even sharper sentiment on "World To Cry." As the guitars careen and crash into the drums, the lyric excoriates a woman whom the narrator thinks trades too often on lies and tears to get her way. "You think you're the one who taught the world to cry," he sings sneerily. "Cry cry cry till you're misunderstood," he jeers, a nice turn of phrase about the way we — men and women — use a defensive emotionalism to deflect the substance of what's being claimed, or asserted to deceive.

The voices of Holsapple and Stamey sound very strong; they've aged in a way that retains the youthful, adenoidal plaintiveness that gives airy power-pop some poignance. At the same time, these are older men whose sense of pride in craft, of cranking it out with skill, remains, if anything, even more proud. They're no longer living in a post-Beatles world in which a four-piece band is the essence of pop music. That time is gone, as they say at the very start of the album, and they spend the rest of the album proving it.

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Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Our rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of a new album by the dB's. The group, led by singer-songwriter-guitarist Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, hasn't made an album with the original dB's lineup in 30 years, but Ken says the new collection, called "Falling Off the Sky," brushes aside decades and nostalgia to create a vital sound for today.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THAT TIME IS GONE")

DB'S: (Singing) When you're standing on the first step of the bus and you're asking yourself what you're doing this for and you had the man the ticket, find a place to sit, and try to rest in the night headed north, and you settle in your seat and your mind starts (unintelligible) you better wake up, wake up, wake up. That time is gone.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: If there was any doubt that The dB's have any use for being considered through the haze of memory, or limited to the misty fondness from fans who remember them from the early '80s, the blast that opens their new album, a song called "That Time Is Gone," could not be more explicit.

Group leaders Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, along with drummer Will Rigby and bassist Gene Holder, are taking back their sound after 30 years, sprucing it up and re-exploding it for the days we live in now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WRITE BACK")

DB'S: (Singing) Write back. I'm never going to write back. Forever I might write to you and never send it to because you don't deserve to read the words. In a flash my heart went out and got smashed. You told me that I wrote with dash. Now my hopes have crashed and my email cache is trashed. Write back.

TUCKER: That's "Write Back," a rare dB's song from Will Rigby, and at first you think the detail that's going to date his tale of romantic epistolary correspondence is the notion of writing a letter.

But Rigby slyly refers to having his email cached, and still manages to retain the nice, slight pun of writing back and coming right back built into that lovely piece of jangling pop. The dB's, if they can be said to have a uniting theme in their music over the years, return again and again to the tricks lovers play on each other, the vehement desire for truth and earnestness instead of coyness, or the tiresome playing hard to get.

You can hear it ring out on Chris Stamey's "Send Me Something Real."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEND ME SOMETHING REAL")

DB'S: (Singing) You're floating out of reach. Waves crash across the beach, that stretches to the end of time. I try to catch your hand before the seraphim can pull you far away from me. Send me something real. 'Cause I don't remember how it feels to be free and pure.

TUCKER: As if composing an answer record to his comrade, Peter Holsapple immediately follows up that song with an even sharper sentiment on "World To Cry." As the guitars careen and crash into the drums, the lyric excoriates a woman whom the narrator thinks trades too often on lies and tears to get her way.

You think you're the one who taught the world to cry, he sings sneerily. Cry cry cry till you're misunderstood, he jeers, a nice turn of phrase about the way we - men and women - use a defensive emotionalism to deflect the substance of what's being claimed, or asserted to deceive.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORLD TO CRY")

DB'S: (Singing) You think you know it all but what do you know? You think you love someone but where did it go? You learn to trust yourself but not for long. You think you're the one that wrote the very last love song. You try to catch yourself before your fall. You try to brace yourself when you're up against the wall. It was so easy when we knew how to fly. You think you're the one that taught the world to cry.

(Singing) You taught the world to cry. You taught the world to cry. You think you're the one that taught the world to cry. And once you've had the best...

TUCKER: The voices of Holsapple and Stamey sound very strong. They've aged in a way that retains the youthful, adenoidal plaintiveness that gives airy power-pop some poignance. At the same time, these are older men whose sense of pride in craft, of cranking it out with skill, remains, if anything, even more proud.

They're no longer living in a post-Beatles world in which a four-piece band is the essence of pop music. That time is gone, as they say at the very start of the album, and they spend the rest of the album proving it.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed the new album from the dB's called "Falling Off the Sky." FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. We'll close with a song by Yomo Toro, who died Saturday at the age of 78. He was a master of the cuatro, a 10-string instrument that is the national instrument of Puerto Rico.

After moving from Puerto Rico to New York, he became a key player for the Fana record label and helped create the music that became known in the U.S. as salsa. Yomo Toro performed in bands with Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, and Celia Cruz, and was a regular with the Fania All-Stars. This is a song written by Yomo Toro that he recorded in the FRESH AIR studio in 1990. It's called "Don't Bury My Clothes."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T BURY MY CLOTHES")

YOMO TORO: (Singing in Spanish)

(Singing) When I die, don't bury my clothes. Don't bury my clothes. When I die, don't bury my clothes. Don't bury my clothes. When I die, don't bury my clothes. Don't bury my clothes. When I die, don't bury my clothes. Don't bury... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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