Saturday, May 05, 2012

Like This (1984)

I guess it makes about as much sense as anything that my favorite album by the dB's would turn out, in the absence of Chris Stamey, to be something closer to a Peter Holsapple solo album, even though the founding rhythm section of Gene Holder and Will Rigby is on hand for the project. But I put Like This on and connected instantly. I love this album. I called it my favorite album of 1984 (somewhat defensively, in the company of Born in the U.S.A., Let it Be, and Purple Rain) and I played it many days beyond that. A lot of Stamey's cerebral stuntcraft is dialed back with the all-Holsapple songs and the production by Chris Butler, late of the Waitresses. I miss it, but I also like what comes of its absence. Inevitably, Holsapple's greater bent toward an emotional openness threatens constantly to tip the project over into bathos (as in a line Christgau hails as "Inspirational Verse" in his review, a line with a certain sly wit but that nonetheless feels to me vaguely unpleasant: "I can understand / Why you want a better man / But why do you wanna make him out of me?"). On the other hand, there's always something to be said for candor, and these plain tales of the lonely alt-rocker in his native environment hit home often and in surprising ways. I like the line in "She Got Soul" that goes "Every girl I know has got some soul," sung ruefully. I like how "A Spy in the House of Love" achieves a certain density of groove; it sounds worked out the way a band works things out, playing, even as it remains athwart its jangly forward momentum. The big hit "Amplifier" is represented here in the best version I know, the tragic story of a psycho girlfriend who steals everything but the amplifier. Holsapple's guitar-play all through is rudimentary but loose and spontaneous, hitting multiple right notes practically every time he steps out. I guess it was obvious enough even at the time, viz., no Stamey, but this was pretty near the end for the dB's. Well, no, never say never. They reunited in 2005 and there's new product this year for the first time in 25 years (see the official website), not counting solo work and whatnot in intervening years. I can't speak to that, yet (and keep putting off speaking to the last album, from 1987). I do think Like This is a good place to reconnoiter them, and indeed all alt-rock, such as it. In many ways to me the dB's and this album are the epitome of everything it can be, good and bad, and coming from reasonably well back in the emergence of that often annoying and often beguiling nexus of attitude and sound.

1 comment:

  1. Great review of my fave album of 1984 as well!

    Fans of The dB's may want to know about my blog about the group, it's members and their many musical collaborations:

    New posts with music every Friday...