Mention the dB's or Mitch Easter to most power-slash-jangle pop fans, and, most likely, you'll get a loud sigh o' pleasure in response. Much beloved by record shoppe habitués (like yours truly at the time) in the early eighties, the deeBs were the most criminally underappreciated southern pop band of the era (the most criminally overappreciated being, of course, R.E.M.)
Their first two releases, Stands for Decibels and Repercussion, are still cited by true believers as pristine pieces of brainy jangle-pop, while Like This, produced after founding member Chris Stamey left to pursue a solo career, has its equally strong proponents (among 'em, this writer). Easter, in addition to fronting another underrated pop-rock group, Let's Active (perhaps best known for the sparkly "Every Word Means No"), was also producer for R.E.M.'s early releases. There's a lotta musical D.I.Y. history in those two names, in other words — and where the two first came together was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with Sneakers.
Founded by future dB's Chris Stamey and Will Rigby, Sneakers released two indie EPs, Sneakers and In the Red, both of which received kudos in rockfan forums like Trouser Press and New York Rocker, but largely went unnoticed beyond the fanzine press. The first six-song EP was the work of a four-man unit -- Stamey, drummer Rigby, guitarist Rob Slater & bassist Robert Keely — while the second was the creation of a band in name only. Stamey and Easter (who'd joined the group for a gig at Max's Kansas City) put together Red as a duo, utilizing a few archival tracks featuring the rest of the players, along with future dB's bassist Gene Holder, but primarily playing most of the instruments themselves. With Easter sharing vocal responsibilities, the six-song set sounds as much like nascent Let's Active as it does pre-formed dB's.
Both EPs, along with nine other tracks initially produced around the same time, are now being re-issued by Collectors' Choice under the collegially pretentious title Nonsequitur of Silence. For fans of the sound, the collection provides a splendorous earful of early D.I.Y. popmaking. (A historically contextual parenthetical should probably be inserted here: when Sneakers was first released in '76, the best-known indie tracks were by the likes of Patti Smith, Television & Pere Ubu. The power pop boom that brought all those skinny tie bands into the public limelight wouldn't flower for at least another year, so this stuff was really ahead of its time.)