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Keep Going, Digby

Falling Up (Label X/Toucan Cove)

By Tim Roberts

"I tripped on my shoelace/ And fell up," opens the title piece from Falling Up, the final collection of children's poetry from the late Shel Silverstein, "Up to the roof tops / Up over the town. . . . / Up where the colors / Blend into the sounds." Some seven years later, vocalist Paul Moeller augments the feeling when he sings, "I keep looking up to the purple stars / Trying hard just to realize who we are / Maybe you'd like to come along" in "Falling Up to the Stars," off a recording also called Falling Up, the first national release from Southern Indiana's Digby. And even though the song is located almost halfway through the recording - sandwiched between selections of athletic power pop and growly ballads - it acts as an invitation for us. In this their third release under the name Digby, the band beckons us to seek wholeness and love in a world where there doesn't seem to be much of either.

Or they could just want us to have a blast.

Even though it borrows a great deal of material from last autumn's Go Digby, Falling Up is not just a re-release of a previous work, nor should it be considered a Go Digby Redux. Gone from this release is some of the high-energy rock. Replacing it are songs of escapism and introspection. Fear not, though. The members of Digby (which, along with vocalist/guitarist Moeller also consists of Ben Schneider on bass, John Shiner or keyboard, Rich Oeffinger on lead guitar and Mark Book on drums) haven't become navel-gazers in order to appear smart and accessible to a larger audience. The band's lyrics still retain their sarcasm and humor, the twin survival mechanisms in a world of sour relationships and broken hearts - common themes in songwriting twisted askew in the way only Digby can.

Consider the ear-grabbing opening track "Minerva," which tells of a relationship that is nothing but upper-handing from one partner and resentment from the other, or pretend love in "If You Only Knew," (one verse stating, "I could make a really great husband for a really great wife," one of the most backhanded lines to ever appear in a song) and certain out-of-control behaviors that excite a partner in "Too Late," with its bouncy rhythm and instrumentation that sounds as if it had been yanked into the future from a 1980s band that tried to sound too much like The Cars.

After a number of selections that include the dreamy title track and "One Hundred Percent Free," (appearing on the release by federal mandate and because the head of the label distributing it nationwide really likes the song) Digby dives into the murk of imprisoning lust in "m.i.a," about a woman who generates enough obsession that "mathematicians line up to lay with her / All organized and in single file." She's tough to escape and anyone ensnared is declared missing in action. The song's lyrics merely outline the obsession, while the music drives it with a hot thrumming that's like blood pounding in your ears. It would fit the soundtrack to an updated version of Body Heat starring the Olsen Twins and Ashton Kutcher.

Digby and producer Todd Smith have given us music that is tight and clean, even when the guitars are amped up and the drums pound like summer thunder. Under Smith's caretending, the band is heading in a comfortable direction, one that will give them national exposure. If Go Digby was their mature departure point, Falling Up is the bridge. By including songs from the previous release on it to share with the rest of the nation, Digby acknowledges what got them started, while the balance of Falling Up only hints at what is yet to come.

[And for the record, "Minerva," "If You Only Knew," "Too Late," "Caged," "So Low," "Til the Morning," and the band's signature song "One-Hundred Percent Free" are the selections from Go Digby that appear on Falling Up. But keep in mind that this is their first national release - not everyone has heard the material. So its caveat emptor to the local fans and have at it to the ones yet to come]