Saturday, April 28, 2012

Repercussion (1982)

So back when we used to sit around asking questions like this, we asked each other which of the first two dB's album was better. A certain number of stalwarts, and almost everybody new to the band, stumped for the debut, but a lot of people including me eventually came to favor Repercussion most. It's all still a bit cold, but more experienced and hence more thoughtful and interesting. Most of the songs still feel ultimately worked out inside someone's head, but they were starting to take chances, some of them coming off very nicely: the horns on "Living a Lie," for example, a traditional enough soul-style outfit courtesy Graham Parker's Rumour, but with virtually all hint of the blues removed (or ultra-refined at best), which somehow gives it a vaguely unnerving feel of stepping gingerly through worrisome places. It's all at once familiar and strange, with a formal tension that effectively endures even as one comes to know it. Another example: all the various levels and depths of the production in "Ask for Jill," which includes the usual sparkling harmonies, various phase-shiftings and echoes, and a brief one-sided phone conversation. Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey are caught here finding their voices in parallel, and it's exciting to hear their moments captured with such clarity. There's Holsapple spinning gold out of self-pity on "We Were Happy There"—an early influence on Matthew Sweet among its many virtues, and more of that to come. An early version of his greatest hit, "Amplifier," is here too (more trouble with women: "An amplifier's just wood and wire / And wire and wood don't do any good / When your heart is blazing like a wildfire / And all you got to show for it's an amplifier"). By the same token "Happenstance" is one of Stamey's finest, with terrific singalong moments, even as it goes quickly and restlessly through its motions, from a lonesome turn with crickets to brisk drum fills and all its on-the-button harmonies. And there's evidence the collaboration was going to be fruitful too, as on "Storm Warning" or "Neverland," two Holsapple songs all decked out in Stamey finery. They are also two of the best songs here, cohesive and potent, jettisoning a too-usual bent toward the tentative. If it was a harbinger of what was to come, and it wasn't, it looked like there was going to be a lot to look forward to in coming years.

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