are one of those bands whose influence transcends their popularity. Upon forming in the late 70s they began developing a kind of guitar pop that would become a template for the 80s alt-rock boom, connecting Big Star and R.E.M. In June the dB's released Falling off the Sky
(Bar/None), their fifth album in 31 years and first since 1987. It's also the first in three decades with the original lineup—guitarist, singer, and songwriter Chris Stamey left soon after the foursome's second album, 1982's Repercussion
. Two more albums followed in the 80s, with Stamey's former coleader Peter Holsapple at the helm, but the band called it quits in 1988 in the face of commercial indifference. In 1991 Stamey and Holsapple proved there was no bad blood between them by making the album Mavericks
for I.R.S., and in 2005 they reunited with the rest of the dB's—drummer Will Rigby and bassist Gene Holder—and began the on-and-off work that would culminate in Falling off the Sky
. Their sound remains as bracing and hooky as ever; Stamey is still the band's eccentric, with his jagged phrasing and asymmetrical melody lines, and Holsapple provides straight-ahead pop pleasures. The lyrics lack the bristling anger of the dB's earliest material—Stamey and Holsapple sound content, even wise—but musically the hunger and drive are undiminished. Holsapple opens the album with "That Time Is Gone
," a storming garage rocker that stubs out nostalgia like a cigarette, and the effervescent, multipartite Stamey tune "The Adventures of Albatross and Doggerel" balances delicacy and aggression. For the first time the dB's also recorded a Rigby tune: the sly "Write Back" has the rootsy oomph of an NRBQ classic. The band is only playing out here and there so support the new album, so don't take this opportunity lightly. For more on the dB's, see Artist on Artist, where Rick Rizzo of Eleventh Dream Day interviews Stamey. —Peter Margasak The Outside World opens.