Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple: A Career Retrospective, Via Video
It's no surprise that I'm stoked for this weekend's appearances by Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple. But why is this such a big deal? Roy touched on this in his story, but these two men basically were in a band that perfected modern power-pop.
Featuring drummer Will Rigby, bassist Gene Holder and singer/guitarists Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, the dB's criss-crossed Southern twang, New York's nervous strumming and pure-pop's sweetness. Although Stamey left after LP two (1982's Repercussion), all four proper studio albums by the dB's contain small gems, the type of songs whose harmonies, melodies and lyrics feel effortless. The band's songwriting is clever without being precious, melancholy without being weighed down by sadness, and sometimes cynical, but not jaded.
Most of all -- and this is my weakness, I suppose -- the dB's specialize in wistfulness, crystallizing a longing for tantalizing thing just out of reach. Consider it music for underdogs, those who don't always get their way in love or life. (My favorite is "Never Before and Never Again," a duet between Holsapple and Syd Straw which I listened to obsessively after a break-up years ago.)
"Big Brown Eyes"
Holsapple and Stamey's post-dB's careers haven't been too shabby, either. Stamey's single "Cara Lee" (which I heard on KDHX on Wednesday afternoon) prompted me to seek out and buy his out-of-print solo CD, It's Alright, which is just a small part of his solo career; he's also collaborated with Yo La Tengo on the 2005 album A Question of Temperature. Holsapple played with R.E.M. for awhile in the late '80s/early '90s and has been an auxiliary musician for Hootie and the Blowfish for years.
Chris Stamey, "Venus" (Television cover)
Stamey and Holsapple's 1991 collaboration, Mavericks, might as well be considered the dB's all grown up; "I Want to Break Your Heart" and "Geometry" are absolutely ageless twang-pop. (You can also buy an expanded edition with bonus tracks at the dB's official website.) Consider it an early, early precursor to the dB's reunion, which happened in 2005 and features Stamey, Holsapple, Rigby and Holder. As Roy reports, a new dB's record is due sometime soon.
The dB's official website has some cool archival video, but commence massive geekout below:
"Judy" (live in Chapel Hill, 1981)
"Ups & Downs" (live 1981, Chapel Hill)
"Bad Reputation" (live in Sweden, 1982)
Nada Surf covering the dB's, "Black & White." Matthew Caws' songwriting (and vocal style, for that matter) owes huge debts to the dB's, mainly in his fixation on the shadier side of life.