The dB's

From Academic Kids

The dB's were a power pop group of the late 1970s and 1980s. The bandmembers were Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Will Rigby and Gene Holder, all of whom were from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The group was formed in New York City.

Stamey played bass with Alex Chilton in New York during 1977, and with Television guitarist Richard Lloyd recorded "(I Thought) You Wanted to Know" that year. A single of this song, backed with "If and When" (on which Rigby and Holder played), appeared in 1978, credited to Chris Stamey and the dB's. Holsapple joined the group in October 1978.

They released their first album, Stands for deciBels, in 1981, to critical acclaim but negligible sales. Their sound was a modernized version of earlier power pop, with precise arrangements and highly accomplished instrumental work. Stamey and Holsapple were the band's songwriters, and while Holsapple was skilled in the composing of fairly straightforward tunes such as "Big Brown Eyes" and "Bad Reputation," Stamey's songs, which include "Espionage" and "Tearjerkin'," tended to be somewhat more experimental. They released a second album in 1982, Repercussion, which built upon the strengths of the first album, and also released singles such as "Judy."

Stamey left the group after the second album, and pursued a career as a solo artist and producer. The group then recorded a third album, Like This, released in 1984, which was less experimental, although just as accomplished as the first two efforts (which have since been reissued together on one compact disc).

The final CD released while the dB's were together was The Sound of Music in 1987. Again under Holsapple's direction, this is perhaps the band's most traditional pop album.

Two CDs which collected demos, early recordings and singles, Ride the Wild Tom-Tom and Paris Avenue, were released after the dB's broke up.

Since the group's demise, Holsapple has been a session musician, and has led a group called the Continental Drifters. Chris Stamey has released solo records and is a record producer. Will Rigby is a respected drummer, playing for Steve Earle and others, and Gene Holder has continued to record and produce.

Although the dB's enjoyed only a limited popularity, their recordings were held in high esteem by critics. Robert Christgau, reviewing their first album, said "This is pop at its tensest--the precise harmonies, broken rhythms, and Byrdsy zoom effects are drawn so tight they make the expertly rendered romantic ups and downs of the songs sound intense and earned." However, their later recordings were felt by some critics to compare poorly to their first three albums. Christgau again, on The Sound of Music: "Yeah, it rocks, but when a pop group leaves it at that they're no better than their latest song, and when their sole remaining songwriter is still dissecting serial monogamy as he says bye to thirty, chances are his latest song doesn't even interest him all that much."

DISCOGRAPHY

  • Stands for deciBels (1981)
  • Repercussion (1982)
  • Like This (1984)
  • The Sound of Music (1987)
  • Ride the Wild Tom-Tom (1993)
  • Paris Avenue (1994)
  • Stands for deciBels/Repercussion (2001)
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