The dB’s Return

“Here’s another hit,” Peter Holsapple said in the middle of The dB’s show at the Iota in Arlington last week. You could practically hear the ironic quote marks around the word hit.

To a generation in the 80s listening to college rock, the songs like “Amiplifier” and “Love is for Lovers” were good as hits – big jangly guitar rock anthems that would sustain the sound to a new generation.

There wasn’t much of a structure to sustain their music back in the day, and not as many people know them as they know their colleagues like R.E.M. It’s also been 25 years since the original lineup of Chris Stamey, Will Rigby and Gene Holder have toured. The occasion is a new studio album on BarNone, “Falling Off the Sky” that is their first for the four since “Repercussion.”

Like the best rock bands, they thrived from differing approaches of its two leaders, Holsapple and Stamey. Both are steeped in pop, with Stamey occasionally veering off in experimental, eclectic sounds, which he demonstrated on stage by pounding his hardbody guitar for reverb and other echoy effect.

Rigby and Holder are the unheralded rhythm section – melodic, bashing and driving.

Except for graying hair, Stamey looks about the same – maybe a little too much like Mike Dukakis in his middle age. Holsapple is a shock, though, having shaved his head and looking formidable as a biker. They both sound good, and the harmonizing ring through the decades.

On stage they were aided by a much younger extra musician on keyboards, tambourine and guitar as needed; he also opened the show with an unexceptional solo set.

The crowd was full of fellow middle-aged record collectors who loved hearing the great songs like “Lonely Is (As Lonely Does)” and grooving to the new songs, several of which have the same potential for ringing true through the decades.

“They’re all hits,” a fan said when Holsapple was making his comment about the band’s own chart success.

“Yeah,” he said, “And we’re all rich.”

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