The dB's

Falling Off the Sky

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People change. That's an inevitable fact of life, and nothing to be feared, but it does make for a real dilemma when a band that's been out of commission for a while decides to reunite and go back into the recording studio. Maybe they're the same folks who worked well together back in the day, but will they sound the same, or interact in the same way? That's the bugaboo about Falling Off the Sky, which is the first new album from the dB's since 1987, and the first to feature the original lineup of Chris Stamey, Peter Holsapple, Gene Holder, and Will Rigby since Repercussion in 1982. In the 30 years since that benchmark in smart, adventurous pop, the four members of the dB's have all gone on to impressive careers in music, and Falling Off the Sky is an album that was clearly made by four gifted players and songwriters who enjoy working together. But the funny thing about Falling Off the Sky is that one can clearly hear the personalities of all four members of the group, but the results don't really sound like the dB's, at least not as we knew them. This is not without precedent; after the band broke up, Stamey and Holsapple cut a pair of splendid duo albums (1991's Mavericks and 2009's Here and Now) that found them collaborating beautifully without sounding much like the dB's, and on Falling Off the Sky, the four individuals make strong, intelligent, and well-crafted pop music that's significantly less wiry and more thoughtful and mature (for lack of a better word) than the records they made in the 1980s. The psychedelic undertow of Stamey's songs is clearer and more melodically ambitious, Holsapple's songs sound bigger and he's (slightly) more willing to cop to his hard rock influences, Rigby gets a chance to show off his charm as a songwriter along with his solid and lively drumming, and Holder's bass playing still fits the pocket but with a shade more swagger. Put it all together, add some fine songs, and mix it up with a sympathetic production by the band and longtime associates Scott Litt and Mitch Easter, and you get an album that most folks who loved Stands for Decibels or Repercussion are likely to enjoy. They just aren't likely to know the same people made it if they don't look at the cover.

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