If we can agree that the first generation of power pop began with Big Star in the early ’70s, then Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, who became new wave/power-pop cult heroes in the early ’80s with the dB’s, had a foot in that era through their pre-dB’s work with Alex Chilton. Which is to say that Holsapple and Stamey know a thing or two about turning out sparkling pop gems with some rock ‘n’ roll grit, if anyone does. After Stamey left Holsapple to front the dB’s on his own in the mid-’80s, the pair reunited in 1991 for the first Stamey & Holsapple album, Mavericks. Over the last couple of years, they’ve also gotten back together under the dB’s banner for the occasional gig, and are allegedly working on a new dB’s album, but Here and Now marks their first recorded collaboration in 18 years.
They’ve made it very clear that this shouldn’t be viewed by anyone as a dB’s album, and that band’s recent shows reveal them to be as on-point as ever, so Holsapple and Stamey clearly have nothing to prove in that regard. Accordingly, they’ve taken this opportunity to tread a somewhat lower-key, more “mature” path than the irresistibly herky-jerky/quirky pop of their old outfit. Not a million miles from Mavericks, Here and Now is a warm, organic effort pitched halfway between folk-rock and the power-pop the pair is so expert at. A breezy, summery feel prevails on tunes like “Early in the Morning” and “Some of the Parts,” where an odd side effect of Holsapple and Stamey’s maturation is their now-lower voices blending into a harmony sound that’s become strangely reminiscent of They Might Be Giants.
In any case, you don’t rack up a CV like these guys have by making records devoid of sparkling songcraft, and that’s proven consistently over the course of this disc. Still, for all the sophisticated, melodic pleasure to be found on Here and Now, a comfy old shoe of an album, one could be forgiven for occasionally wondering whether things might achieve just a touch more frisson if Holsapple and Stamey surrendered just a little to the temptations of that sharp-edged sound of yore. To be sure, it’s tough growing up in rock ‘n’ roll, but ultimately, these two old friends navigate the process with grace and elan.