Songwriters rejoin for infectious pop collection
Reviewed December 2009
Here and Now
By Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey
Bar/None Records: 2009
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
The dB's were a critically praised power-pop band from the '80s whose sound was echoed in that of such later, more commercially successful acts as Fountains of Wayne and Fastball. The two songwriters and singers responsible for the band have been solo for awhile, but Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey have teamed up again for "Here and Now."
The two produced and clearly know their way around a studio (Stamey has worked for years as a producer), and play many of the instruments, though a roster of guest artists includes Branford Marsalis on sax. The sound is consistent, with catchy pop hooks and tight harmonies dominating and trumping any real lyrical heft. Both take lead vocals, and although each track is unattributed, both display lightweight pipes these guys are more writers than singers. Some of the vocals bring to mind Dan Hicks of the '70s hipster-jazz combo Hot Licks, others surf dude Mike Love of the Beach Boys.
No real harm done, though, because the songs are compelling. "My Friend the Sun" is a good start, showing how the thin lead vocal is easily overcome by an infectious melody and buildup arrangement. "Santa Monica" is even better, using an electric guitar track that sounds like Neil Young stopped by to play as the vehicle to propel a bombarding chorus. The title tune uses a combination of semi-goof lyrics, a riff that sticks in the head, and straightforward arrangement to work the power-pop formula to perfection. "Ukulele" is just that: two of them jamming for a minute and half, while "Begin Again" is a slow, minor chord song with Marsalis making things very interesting with his horn accents. "Some of the Parts" is a back to power pop, with a great organ solo and lyrics. "Song for Johnny Cash" doesn't really work as an attempt at a power-pop country ballad, and the last few of the 14 tracks could be chalked up as filler. On a disc like this, even the filler cuts aren't bad.
Holsapple and Stamey aren't likely to make themselves household names with "Here and Now," but the music shows that their reputations are well-deserved and makes for a great listen.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.