dB's | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

After R.E.M. got big in the late 80s and jumped from I.R.S. to Warner Brothers, fans of their old labelmates the dB's wrung their hands and asked the bitch-goddess Fame why she'd abandoned their heroes to die a cult band. (Chris Stamey, one of the group's two chief songwriters, had left in 1982, and the other, Peter Holsapple, pulled the plug on the dB's six years later.) The murky guitars and take-the-sock-out-of-your-mouth vocals on R.E.M.'s early records must've made their jangly tunes seem "underground" to a lot of finicky college kids--did that mean the dB's, with their danceable rhythms, lyrics about girls, and touches of synth, sounded like power-pop sellouts by comparison? Was it because Michael Stipe was pretty and weird and the dB's were dweeby, or because R.E.M. was a hot live band and the dB's sometimes bombed onstage? My theory: the bitch wanted to keep Stamey and Holsapple hungry, so that by the time she'd run Stipe, Buck, and Mills into the ground, the two of them would be itching to get the dB's back together and make another great album for us. The classic Stands for Decibels lineup recently went into the studio for the first time in more than 20 years, and there's already a free song called "World to Cry" posted on their Web site. It ain't "Bad Reputation," but it bodes well--the hooks are there, the guitars are just jaunty enough, the lyrics are as smart and unpretentious as ever, and the vocals still sound a little like a sweaty-palmed geek boy making an inexplicably intriguing pass at you. The dB's hope to release the album in 2006 but still haven't lined up a label--ah, showbiz. The 6 PM set is part of the Hideout's annual Block Party, which starts at 3 PM today; see page 62 for the full schedule. Sat 9/17, 6 PM, the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $10. All ages. Also 10 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $20.

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