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the Dave Matthews Band

 

Enter ye a realm where acoustic guitars and busy rhythm sections are intertwined with sinewy wind instruments and violins. Where a man sings not through his mouth, like ye mortals, but through his nostrils. Where, during the recitals, man-children of higher learning establishments imbibe of spirits while wearing the holy caps of American sport and shouting "woo". Yea, abandon all hope ye who enter here, for beyond here is the lair of the Dave Matthews Band.

lineup: Carter Beauford (drums), Stefan Lessard (bass), Dave Matthews (vocals of questionable quality, guitars), LeRoi Moore (woodwinds), Boyd Tinsley (violin).

review index: Remember Two Things / Under the Table and Dreaming / Recently ep / Crash / Before These Crowded Streets / Everyday / Busted Stuff

missing albums: way too many live albums

apex: Crash
nadir: Busted Stuff
overlooked: ha. hahahaha. ha.


...reader comments...

BeaufordDM@aol.com writes:

hey i saw your site,,, do actually like any music ?????? or do you sit behind your computer, gain weight, improperly judge musicians, download porn, jerkoff, and pretend your some kind of critic ??

[editor's note: this is a general comment, but I think it's obvious what band he's particularly upset about]

Cole responds:

Yes.


Remember Two Things - 1993

Rating: ***
Best songs: One Sweet World, Seek Up, Minarets
Worst songs: Ants Marching, Tripping Billies

 

There are two things you have to remember about this album: 1. with the exception of three tracks, it's live. 2. the best-known songs on here were re-recorded on the two following albums.

To start with thing 1: Yeah, it's live, and you know how much I love live albums. This is fairly well-recorded, but it sounds kind of lifeless and sterile. It's missing the signature "let's put a crapload of reverb on everything" Lillywhite touch, making it a bit unfamiliar-sounding if you're just familiar with Crash or, God forbid, Everyday. The performances are okay, but (here's thing 2) "Ants Marching", compared to its UTTaD version, is incredibly dull. Same goes for "Tripping Billies". I refuse to comment on "Satellite" -- you'll have to wait till the next review for that.

Let's get on with it. The other live tunes include "Recently", a decent tune, but hardly worth tacking on five minutes of fiddly instrumental bits in the middle. "One Sweet World", on the other foot, is wonderful. Hey, Dave, remember when you wrote good songs? Yeah, like this one. At the end of the record is a couple acoustic songs, "I'll Back You Up" (apparently written as a proposal to a girl who turned him down -- er, whoops) and "Christmas Song" (not the 'chestnuts roasting' one). They're not bad, but it's kind of an odd way to end an album.

Which leaves us with the three studio tracks. "Seek Up" is damn near genius, though it's a whole lot better live (not that I've ever been to an overpriced DMB concert). "Minarets" is vaguely middle eastern, as the title implies. Whee. There's also a fairly conventional pop song called "The Song That Jane Likes". What the hell kind of a title is that? Lord help me, I'm reviewing DMB...

Wow, I mentioned all the song titles! Been a while since I did that. But with a record as scattershot as this one, it's hard not to. How does three stars sound? Okay? Okay.


Under the Table and Dreaming - 1994

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Warehouse, Typical Situation, Rhyme & Reason, The Best of What's Around
Worst songs: Pay for What You Get, Lover Lay Down, What Would You Say, Jimi Thing

 

Thank God they got a producer. Steve Lillywhite steps in to give a nice sheen to the proceedings, as well as layer a crapload of instruments up on each other. Rather a far cry from Drums & Wires, in other words. Anyway, it struck a nerve with the American public, or at least "What Would You Say" did, because God knows it got played on the radio a million times. It's not the best of songs either: I am of the opinion that the mere appearance of John Popper is enough to turn the dial from rock to suck.

There are other radio hits on here, of course: "Ants Marching" is vastly improved from the original on R2T, and "Satellite"... Oh, "Satellite". I can never make up my mind on this song. Half the time I think it's a nice ballad, and the other half I think it's a crappy bit of adult-contemporary (those big cymbal crashes, I think, are what place it in the latter). Oh well, let's consider it "neutral" for now.

Doesn't matter anyway. The rest of the album is more interesting. Like the extra-cool atmospheric "Warehouse", or almost-mean "Rhyme & Reason". "Typical Situation" is pretty good, as long as you ignore the rather nonsensical lyrics. On the other (read: BAD) half, we've got the vomitous love ballad "Lover Lay Down", rather drull (it's drab and dull -- certainly not a typo) "Pay for What You Get", and oh yeah, a dumb ode to pot called "Jimi Thing". Way to draw in the frat boys, David. Is that all the songs? Well, close enough, anyway. It's better, not great, but better.


Recently ep - 1994

Rating: **
Best songs: All Along the Watchtower, Halloween
Worst songs: Dancing Nancies

 

Stuck in between hit album #1 and hit album #2 is this thing, perhaps a reminder that yes, they did make an album before Under the Table and Selling Millions of Copies to Teenagers Who Think Dave Is, Like, So Deep. I put forth this theory because the title track is taken from the first album and barbarically chopped down to three minutes. Which kind of invalidates the whole point of the tune -- meandering instrumental sections!

Anyway, who cares, because after that is some live tracks. "Dancing Nancies" (bore me with a stick, David) and "Warehouse" (song good, performance...not so good) performed acoustically under the heading "Dave + Tim", namely Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, heir to the Reynolds Wrap fortune. Is anyone else really sick of the whole "unplugged" thing? I mean, you've got crappy bands like Staind doing acoustic versions of their one-chord droning "rock" songs (yeah, I know that example's a few years old, but bear with me, I don't watch music television anymore). Sorry, folks, but just because your guitar has a hole in it doesn't mean you're a sensitive, introspective musician. NEXT!

Good, the band's back for the last two songs, which happen to be the best parts of this ep. "All Along the Watchtower" is played a lot more interestingly than, say, U2's version, and "Halloween" is pretty darn angry for Mr. Matthews. Doesn't have those annoying strings that will pop up on the Before These Crowded Feet: A Tribute to Dr. Scholl, either. I can't believe I wrote three paragraphs about a crappy little ep, but that's how these things go.


Crash - 1996

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Two Step, Cry Freedom, #41, So Much To Say
Worst songs: Say Goodbye, Proudest Monkey, Crash Into Me, Lie In Our Graves

 

Ah, and here is where Dave Matthews and company stumble onto major commercial success (for the first time). Again Steve "I Produced U2, You Know, Back When They Didn't Suck" Lillywhite is at the helm, and again the production entails sticking a crapload of instruments in each channel, and once again everyone overplays. Seriously, have these guys ever heard of quarter notes?

Anyway, this time the songwriting is a bit more consistent. Admittedly, there's still a few mis-steps, like the dreary, time-wasting album closer "Proudest Monkey". Also, Dave Matthews' sick mind is still in play, as evidenced by the absurdly-popular "Crash Into Me" (where he actually sings 'I come into you' -- and this was a goddamn radio hit!) and less-popular but still 'bleah' "Say Goodbye". "Lie In Your Graves" also really annoys me, though I'm not sure why.

On the other hand, there are songs on here that don't make me want to weep. In a bad way, I mean. Er... yes. The first two songs are brilliantly catchy, he actually writes a couple slow songs that don't make me want to vomit (namely "#41", obviously the number of women who've shot him down over the years [I wanted to make a sports joke here, but seeing as how I detest sports, obviously I didn't have the required background information], and "Cry Freedom"), and most of the rest is pretty good too. "Let You Down" is kinda dull, but it has a whistling solo, and that always makes things better.

This leads into my Lillywhite whistling conspiracy theory. Steve Lillywhite has produced many groups, but the three I am most familiar with are XTC, the Dave Matthews Band, and Guster. Each of these bands, under the influence of Steve Lillywhite, have released songs with whistling solos in them. In the case of XTC, it's "Generals and Majors", which may actually be a synth, but it's supposed to sound like whistling. Here with DMB, we have "Let You Down". And Guster, of course, released "All the Way Up to Heaven" a few years back. How could this be a coincidence? I suspect Mr. Lillywhite is part of an effort to control the minds of music listeners by inserting controlling frequencies in the whistl--

What? Time for my medicine? Oh, okay.

Ah, that's better. Where was I? Oh yes, this album is pretty good. I won't give it higher than the last, though. That just wouldn't be fair.


Before These Crowded Streets - 1998

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: The Stone, The Last Stop, Don't Drink the Water
Worst songs: Stay (Wasting Time), Spoon, Halloween

 

And this, dear reader, is where the train of DMB begins its long, slow derailment off the tracks of...good albums...or something. Sorry, I just can't do those metaphorical things.

Anyway, what's the problem? The songs are all really long and most of them are not very interesting. It starts off good enough, with the absurdly-spastic "Rapunzel", then hits most of the peaks right away: "The Last Stop" is kind of angry and stuff, and it works, too! (Though the title sounds like it comes from an Eagles album or something.) Big Hit #1 was "Don't Drink the Water". Ever see the video for that one? They had the violinist swinging around upside-down. God knows why. That's most of the good stuff on the album, unfortunately -- aside from the masterful "The Stone" and nice-enough-but-not-worth-seven-minutes ballad "Crush", things go downhill. "Halloween", for example, used to be a good song, until they stuck a bunch of stupid strings on top of it. "Spoon", for God's sake, has Alanis Morisette on vocals. If there's one surefire way to make me hate a song, that's it. And then there's "Stay (Wasting Time)", a crappy pop tune that presages the crappy pop tunes of Everyday. And there's a couple songs which I can't remember but I probably don't like either way, so there you have it.

Can you guess I reviewed this from memory? Well, I did. (Note to self: never review albums from memory ever again.)


Everyday - 2001

Rating: *
Best songs: The Space Between, What You Are, When the World Ends, I Did It
Worst songs: all the other ones

 

Note (1.20.03): This is my original review, back when my site sucked. Compared to now, I mean.

Dave Matthews creates a steaming pile of pop with Glen Ballard. I'm confused. Their previous album was Before These Crowded Streets, their darkest and most expansive. Now they're doing four-minute pop songs. Did someone flip over two pages at once, or something?

Now I have nothing against pop music. But this is lowest-common-denominator pop music. These songs could be 1 or 2 minutes in length and contain as much interesting music as they do now. The best song on this album is "The Space Between", a pleasant ballad that would probably just be seen as a mediocre track on any other DMB album. Here, it's a highlight. The other 'good' songs on this album include "What You Are" (I dig that cheesy synth intro) and "When the World Ends". "I Did It" isn't very good, but it's better than the other crap on this album, and that crazy music video makes it worthwhile. Dave Matthews getting beaten with his own leg? Hilarious physical comedy!


Busted Stuff - 2002

Rating: 1/2
Best songs: none
Worst songs: most

 

Oh my. How is it possible to go and make an album that's worse than Everyday? Technically, this stuff was pretty much done before Everyday, but that's hardly an excuse for the tensile strength of this album's lameness. Everyday at least had some high points, few as they were, but this is just packed to the brim with aimless repetative noodling combined with Dave's melody-devoid crooning. I cannot accept this as remotely decent music. This is trash. This is absolutely horrible product being pushed because people will buy it because it's Dave, and he's like, so deep. "Captain" is a marginally listenable song, and that pushes this above a zero rating, but I'm truly embarassed to think that I used to like this band. Ugh.


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