by John M. Borack
Falling Off the Sky
Reunion albums are generally hit and miss propositions, particularly when the band in question has been relatively dormant for a long period of time. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and the first all-new release in 25 years by alt power pop icons the dB’s, Falling Off the Sky, is one big, fat exception. It’s a joy from start to finish, as it’s packed with inspired, hyper-melodic tunes from the dynamic duo of Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, clever arrangements, sweet and sour lyrical musings, and nifty little aural twists at every turn. It takes the band’s signature quirkiness, smooths out the rough edges a bit (a quarter century has a way of doing that) and hits the listener with song after song of melodic goodness.
Things start off strong with “That Time is Gone,” a ’60s-flavored garage rockin’ ditty that is juiced with plenty of organ and guitars and finds Holsapple spitting out the lyrics like Bob Dylan circa 1966; it’s a glorious track that sounds not unlike Paul Revere and the Raiders hanging with the Sir Douglas Quintet. Stamey’s “Before We Were Born” is next up, and is hooked by a heavy, Move-like guitar riff in the verses that leads seamlessly into a typically catchy chorus. The slower numbers on Falling Off the Sky succeed just as mightily as the rockers: “Far Away and Long Ago” is a dreamy, tear-stained ballad with sobbing strings, a slightly Latin-flavored guitar solo and a marvelous lead vocal from Stamey, while Holsapple’s sadly pretty, atmospheric character study “She Won’t Drive in the Rain” is simply one of the best things he’s ever written.
Elsewhere, drummer Will Rigby takes a turn at lead vocals on the insanely grabby, country-poppin’ charmer “Write Back,” the Holsapple-sung “The Wonder of Love” is spiced with some horns and a bit of the classic dB’s quirk, “Remember (Falling Off the Sky)” features some nice lead guitar work (courtesy of guest Mitch Easter) and a vaguely psychedelic feel, and “World to Cry” and “I Didn’t Mean to Say That” sound as if they would have slotted in nicely on the dB’s Like This record from 1984 (ie, they sound timeless).
Two of the more unique cuts on Falling Off the Sky are Chris Stamey’s curiously-titled “Collide-oOo-Scope” (a typical Stamey flight of fancy, with sea shanty-like verses giving way to boom-booming drums that lead into a 4/4 chorus and dive headlong into a shambolic closing) and “The Adventures of Albatross and Doggerel,” an amazing miniature rock opera of sorts that drifts through various feels and tempos; at times it’s lazy and sweet and other times it rocks like mad (kudos to Rigby and bassist Gene Holder for their yeoman work here).
Not only is Falling Off the Sky a worthy addition to the dB’s recorded canon, but thanks to the years they’ve spent honing their songcraft, it’s the finest album they’ve ever recorded – and how many bands can say that 25 years down the road? (www.thedbsonline.net)