Videos by American Songwriter
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
If it seemed like dB’s frontman and co-founder Chris Stamey was consciously shifting to a quieter, more romantic approach on his lovely if downbeat 2013 solo album Lovesick Blues after that band’s raging 2012 reunion, Euphoria returns him to the ringing power-pop waters he is best known for.
The opening “Universe–Sized Arms” sets the tone with its multi-tracked strumming guitars, glockenspiel and sweeping chorus along with horns, strings and backing vocals. It’s an audacious start and arguably one of Stamey’s finest recorded moments. But there is plenty more where that came from as the album unwinds and displays its chiming melodic charms. There are clear connections to the Beatles, not just in the effortless melodies but in the use of Revolver styled horns and particularly the East Indian rhythms in the George Harrison “Within You Without You” inspired “Awake in the World.”
Stamey makes the most of an ordinary if engaging voice and lyrics that sometimes feel undercooked. That’s the case on the schlocky ballad “You Are Beautiful,” a tune that makes the similarly titled, gooey Joe Cocker sung “You Are So Beautiful” sound like Leonard Cohen in comparison. But Stamey sells it with a winning melody and production that keeps the song from sinking under its own simplistic concepts. Thankfully that’s an anomaly on a disc that rebounds with the pounding garage rock of “Rocketship” and a colorfully swirling psychedelic title track sounding like it was ripped out of some Tommy James and the Shondells B-side circa “Crimson & Clover.”
That reference returns in an “extra” cover of James’ 1971 gem “Draggin’ the Line” in a horn enhanced version nearly besting the original top 5 hit. Stamey shifts into Cheap Trick territory on the harder rocking “When the Fever Breaks” and even tacks on a “groovy radio mix” of “Where Does the Time Go” to perhaps garner some of the commercial airplay that has eluded him since the dB’s’ 1978 debut. That’s unlikely to happen to the 60-ish Stamey but it in no way diminishes the rampant joy, enthusiasm and sheer song and production craft that makes Euphoria live up to its blissful title.