The dB's - Stands for deciBels

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Despite critical acclaim and tons of diehard fans, especially in the South and on college campuses, the jangle pop band the dB's never managed a commercial breakthrough. That's not going to happen now either with this Propeller Sound Recordings reissue of the band's debut release from 1981, including on vinyl in the U.S. for the first time ever. But what is going to happen is that a whole new generation of fans is going to come on board as they discover the catchy (and sometimes a bit quirky) bunch of tunes on this album that is now recognized as somewhat of a template for bands that would follow, like R.E.M. who would eventually hire dB's singer, songwriter and guitarist Peter Holsapple for a four year stint. Opening cut "Black and White" in particular sounds like it could have been an influence on the R.E.M. sound (R.E.M.'s debut came along two years after Stands for deciBels.) The influence flows in the opposite direction on "She's Not Worried" where the band shows an obvious fondness for the Beatles while "The Fight" is one of the quirky cuts; with a sound that sort of mashes up the Cars and Devo, the song would have fit easily on rock radio of the era. The catchy "Espionage" should have been all over commercial rock radio too; especially charming about the song is how singers Holsapple and Chris Stamey elide the "o" out of espionage, pronouncing it "espi-nage" as if it's the name of the woman they scrutinize in the song. "Big Brown Eyes" has a bit of a Greg Kihn sound embedded, "I'm in Love" is a gurgling pop rocker that's one of the fastest on the album, and bonus track "Judy," not found on the original release, is a real treat for longtime fans that's laden with sweet harmonies and an easy to sing along to and hooky chorus. It's easy to hear here why Stands for deciBels has the place in rock history that it does.


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