The dB’s have not released an album of new material in 25 years. But in their newest album Falling Off the Sky, they merge the jangle-pop sounds of their early 1980s works with a more mature take on lyricism.
The album starts off with “That Time is Gone,” a song that welcomes new listeners to the classic sound of the dB’s and provides longtime fans with a nostalgic 1980s-sounding power-pop song.
The combination of the catchy guitar hook, simple lyrics sung in Peter Holsapple’s earthy-drawl and short bursts of organ sounds like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in its late 1970s to early 1980s prime.
“Before We Were Born” is an interesting shift from “That Time is Gone,” and features Chris Stamey on lead vocals. Stamey’s nasally whine coupled with strumming guitars is reminiscent of the alternative rock sound of the Decemberists and the Mountain Goats.
“Write Back” is the first song written and sung by drummer Will Rigby on any dB’s album. Rigby exhibits playfulness in his songwriting, shown in lines like “Should’ve known that I, was telling you goodbye, when I didn’t reply to your reply, to my reply, to your reply, to my reply, to your reply, to my letter.”
The lyrics shift from simplistic and literal in songs like “That Time is Gone,” “Write Back,” and songs on their earlier albums to figurative language in many of the songs on Falling Off the Sky.
“I got a feeling that I knew you before we were born,” Stamey sings in the chorus of “Before We Were Born.”
“Far Away and Long Ago” is a thoughtful, reflective song that features a swelling string section and somber lyrics written and sung by Stamey.
“The Adventures of Albatross and Doggerel” is the sharpest contrast lyrically to early dB’s songs and “That Time is Gone.” However, they manage to pull off the song successfully, making it sound like a Who-esque rock song built on a heavy guitar and drum rhythm.
The drawback of the album is that Holsapple does not sing on every song. Stamey’s songs are well written, but at points his voice seems insincere compared to Holsapple’s.
Holsapple’s vocal style lends itself well to the song “I Didn’t Mean To Say That.” The song begins with Holsapple’s robust voice and a strumming acoustic guitar, riding the line of a swaying ballad.
The highlight of the album is “She Won’t Drive In the Rain Anymore.” Holsapple’s poetic lyrics weave together a powerful story and create vivid images for the listener over a swirling electric guitar. Lyrics such as “She watches the heavens open wide. She watches it all from safe inside. It’s so different when you are home and dry,” perfectly represent the dB’s maturity as songwriters since its earlier albums.
The album closes with “Remember (Falling Off The Sky),” a nostalgic, fitting song for the close of an album from a band that may have passed its prime of the 1980s pop era, but shows it is still evolving in the world of modern music.
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