The dB's

Bad Reputation

Song Review by

"Bad Reputation" is the sort of infectious pop that exposes the dB's Southern pop influences, speeding up a Big Star-style take on a Beatles-esque melody and emitting the jarring, oddball element found in many of fellow bandmate Chris Stamey's material. This is a pure Peter Holsapple vehicle, a tightly arranged confection with not a moment wasted in order to serve the piled up melodies that relentlessly fly at you for the duration of the track's three minutes and eleven seconds. The song focuses on one of the band's favorite topics, the backstabbing social order of high school and the swirl of conflicted emotions that it propagates. Holsapple's baby-high voice also lends the track a distinctly juvenile quality as he coos in the opening verse, "New girl at school / She looks cool / Cool enough to cool you down like a summer vacation / She sleeps around, so they say / So do they of course, but she's got a bad reputation" as the band's rhythm section buzzes with a quick propulsive rhythm while clean guitars add steady counter-rhythm and chiming riffs. The band rocks it up through the choruses, alternating sustained chords and syncopated jabs while the melody soars with the help of close harmonies as the boy can't contain a lust-inspired urge to defend the seductive bad girl, "Though I saw you got off on frustration / But I know you've got an explanation / You're an angel" and flat out admits his weakness in the next verse, "She's got it bad, got it bad alright / But I've got it worse for her and a bad reputation". The song's hooks are abundant, melodic riffs coming fast and furious in every break possible, including a smart middle eight with jouncing, slightly off-key piano accents and an economical guitar solo tossed in for good measure. In hindsight, there seems little reason why "Bad Reputation" wasn't a hit right alongside songs like the Records' "Starry Eyes" or the Plimsouls' "Million Miles Away," but the group was hampered by it's weak British label Albion, who were unable to secure U.S. distribution for record. Unfortunately, the import-only Stands for Decibels was subsequently never promoted to American radio and went largely unnoticed.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Stands for Decibels 1981 Line 3:11
Neverland 1999 Line 3:08
No Image 2009 I.R.S. Records 3:11