The dB’s – Falling Off the Sky (review)

The dB’s – Falling Off the Sky (Bar None) review

The band releases their first new album in a quarter century – and it’s one of their best

In the Eighties, while most of America was concerned with flash in the pans like A Flock of Seagulls and Men Without Hats, the dB’s were quietly making some of the most melodic music of the entire decade.  It’s okay if you didn’t notice – the dB’s didn’t sport snazzy hair cuts or wear flower pots on their heads.  After four albums, the band called it quits in 1988.  The good news is – now you have a chance to redeem yourself – the band has just released their first new album in over 25 years,

Typically, a group that’s taken this much time off comes back a shadow of what they once were.  That’s what makes this reunion record such a delight – it can truly be placed up there with the rest of their great albums.  In fact, Falling Off the Sky might be the band’s most cohesive record ever.  Especially during original guitarist Chris Stamey’s era, which covered their first two albums, there was an emphasis on quirky, strange songs, like “Espionage,” and “I Feel Good (Today)” – this was part of the band’s original charm, but it doesn’t necessarily make for a solid record.  The new disc features twelve songs, and every one of them is great.  In fact, Stamey turns in some of the album’s true highlights – especially fine is “Before We Were Born,” which starts with a crunching guitar line before ascending into a chiming chorus.  Then there’s “Far Away and Long Ago,”  with its string accompaniment, it’s reminiscent of some of the mid-period ballads of the Beatles (kind of an “Eleanor Rigby” meets “Michelle”).

Much of the album deals with the passage of time.  The disc opener, “That Time is Gone,” is a slice of Sixties’ garage rock a la the Sir Douglas Quintet, complete with retro organ.  It’s an ironic choice for a band that’s not been around in a long time; a sobering statement of purpose – these guys haven’t returned simply to look back nostalgically on  their glory days, they’ve come to add some more great tunes to their legacy.  Apparently, that’s why this record was so long in the making – they wanted to make sure they got this one right.

Peter Holsapple shares singing duties with Stamey.  His “World to Cry,” with its slinky guitar line, is classic mid-Eighties dB’s – it would’ve fit nicely on Like This.  He turns in the gentle “I Didn’t Mean to Say That” which features harmonica on the chorus, and a middle eight which takes you to unexpected places.

Stamey’s “Collide-oOo-Scope” begins with acoustic strumming and the words “Delaney & Bonnie on a Sunday afternoon / singing hi de hi de hey,” before morphing into sheer ear candy on the chorus of “was it only a dream.”  And, there’s still a little bit of quirkiness in “The Adventures of Albatross and Doggerel,” which starts out with chords reminiscent of a spy movie before a tripped out chorus.  Even drummer Will Rigby gets in on the action, penning the jangly “Write Back.”

The album closes with “Remember (Falling Off the Sky),” where Stamey sings “but I won’t be back again.”  Let’s hope he doesn’t mean it.  Falling Off the Sky reaffirms the dB’s place as one of the most melodically gifted bands, not just of the Eighties, but of all time.  –Tony Peters