Early '80s rock band that was a huge influence for jangle-pop bands like R.E.M. and probably to the whole Athens, GA scene. You could say they were indie rock before indie rock existed. Their songwriting starts from a guitar-pop base but adds plenty of variations, including the occasional horn section, to prevent any single "sound" from dominating their style. The dB's themselves probably drew from the likes of The Beatles and Big Star for inspiration.

Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey are the singer/songwriters who convened the dB's in North Carolina in the late '70s. Stamey actually started the band after being a member of The Sneakers and recruited Holsapple to play keyboards, but Holsapple soon took up the guitar and became a co-leader of the band.

Their first albums weren't even released in the U.S.: Stands for DeciBels (1981) and Repercussion (1982) were released by the Albion label in England. A quick listen suggests why: Both albums are well performed, but Holsapple and Stamey aren't the strongest of singers. Too musical for punk but not polished enough for pop, the band didn't really fit anyone's radio mold at the time. Too bad, because it's great stuff.

Stamey left in 1983, but Holsapple kept the band together for the third album, Like This (1984), released on the Bearsville record label in New York state. The single, "A Spy in the House of Love," was the closest the dB's ever came to a radio hit.

One more album, The Sound of Music (1987), was all the group could take; they disbanded after that, having garnered little mainstream appreciation but plenty of underground fans including the now successful R.E.M. The first two albums were rereleased by the IRS record label, and the third by Rhino, but you'll probably have the best luck finding Amplifier, a retrospective collection released in 1986.

Holsapple and Stamey each released solo albums throughout the '80s, with Stamey getting more of the attention and critical acclaim. Both also did tour work as guitarists, Stamey going on the road with Bob Mould and Holsapple with R.E.M. The two reunited in 1991 for a very good album, Mavericks, which revealed their songwriting getting more reflective as they get older. Holsapple reconvened the trio version of The dB's for the album Paris Avenue.

It should also be noted that Stamey and Holsapple had some good backup in the dB's. Trouser Press cites Will Rigby as "one of a mere handful of current rock drummers with a sound of his own beyond mere beat-keeping." Cool!

I'm not sure what Stamey is up to these days, but Holsapple is part of the excellent band Continental Drifters along with ex-wife Susan Cowsill and Bangles survivor Vicki Peterson.

Sources:
-- Trouser Press Record Guide, 4th edition (1991)
-- Rolling Stone Album Guide (1983)
-- Wilson & Alroy's Record Reviews: http://www.warr.org/dbs.html

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