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Influential Debut Album by the dB’s To Be Reissued and Available on Vinyl for the First Time


Stands For deciBels, the 1981 debut from the dB’s, didn’t make much of a commercial impression, but it enthralled a small legion of college-rock loyalists soon to swoon over bands like R.E.M., whose members are among the many who cite the LP as an inspiration.

Ask a dB why the record has endured, and you get a simple answer.

“We hope that the high quality of our music is what has kept this album beloved by many,” says drummer Will Rigby. (Singer/guitarists Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey and bassist Gene Holder round out the quartet.) “It has a sound all its own. The variety of material is a strong point. The songs do not sound like each other.”

That’s definitely true, and listening to it in 2024, it’s not difficult to understand its appeal. The record is a deft mix of jangly power pop (the terrific opening “Black And White”) and off-kilter, quirky fare like the new-wave-y “Dynamite” (the one song credited to the entire band; the other tracks were penned by either Holsapple or Stamey).

People of a certain age are likely be thrilled, then, to learn that Stands For deciBels has been remastered and will be available digitally on June 7 and on CD and vinyl (the latter for the first time in the U.S.) on June 14 via Propeller Sound Recordings. The LP was recorded in New York City in 1979 and released in the United Kingdom after the Winston-Salem, N.C., band failed to get a label deal here. That explains why no vinyl originally, but what’s the reason for doing it now?

“Propeller Sound Recordings aspires to bring all of the dB’s recordings back into print,” says Rigby. “We’ll see if that happens, but their interest was the ‘propelling’ event.”

Further plans include a reissue of Repercussion, the follow-up, also surprisingly from 1981, as well as the original lineup playing shows in the fall. Those dates are being finalized, but the first gig will be at the Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, N.C., in early September.

Asked again about the legacy of Stands For deciBels, Rigby is pragmatic more than anything.

“We were thrilled to have an album out, no matter how obscure it remained at the time,” he says. “We were happy with the overall album, although there are always things we hear that we wish we could redo or have done differently. Mostly, we wish it was better recorded … but we’re proud of our music and glad that it’s still being listened to nearly half a century later.”

—Matt Hickey