Dave Matthews Band
To say that Dave Matthews Band is well known is an understatement. Approximately two decades after their formation, they had sold over 30 million record copies worldwide, and are one of if not the only group two have 6 consecutive albums hit number one on the Billboard chart. Whilst DMB is known for their most radio friendly material, like 'Crash Into Me', the band has a profound set of epic material on much of their early material. Believed to be the band's first stellar hit was that of 1996's Crash, an album with much to offer and little to take back.
Described mainly as part of the 'jam' band scene, Dave Matthews Band encompasses a handful of different genres into their live performances, the more prominent of these being jazz. Dave Matthews has stated in interviews that his jazz influence came from the likes of Abdullah Ibrahim and Miriam Makeba. While these artist's jazz aspects originate entirely from Matthew's preferred South African scene, these African influences aren't exactly prominent on Crash. Instead, there's a more warm-blooded, swaggery style of pseudo-jazz rock that brings elements from commercial pop rock to make a wonderful twist. The album, while not as profound as say Before These Crowded Streets (1998) with it's grandiose complexity, Crash has it's fair share.
Admittedly Crash is a primarily alternative rock release. There is a clear Barenaked Ladies or R.E.M., or even Phish influence on tracks like 'Say Goodbye' and '#41', especially when it comes to Matthew's guitar playing. These tracks sort of meld into each-other if they become to dull, which they entirely can, but being what the band is primarily known for, the pop-rock songs are played extremely well and are full of heart and emotion. But when the album hits more complex music, lord does it hit well. The beast that is 'Two Step' is perhaps one of the greatest songs to come out of the 1990's, with it's melodramatic tone, somber choruses, fantastic hooks, and of course that bari-sax! It's truly one of DMB's best and is of course my number one recommendation from the album. Now 'Two Step' is really the only song that goes all-out in the vein of progressive music but there are numerous aforementioned alt-rock slammers that are well-know- for good reason. '#41' blends eclecticism with flashy film-score emotional value to great affect. 'Crash Into Me' is by far the most well known song from the band's repertoire, and it's not bad. It's by far one of the more simple songs from the tracklist, but it's cheerful tone and playful lyrics are enough to make it notable. 'Proudest Monkey' is a very interesting song, clocking in at a whopping 9 minutes, but it hits numerous structural high points throughout it's run time. Imagine 'Crash Into Me', but longer, more improvisational, and more interesting lyrical quality. That's basically what the song is, and to someone like me that's greatly appreciated.
The greatest think by far about Dave Matthews Band however is Dave Matthews' Band. This band has what I think to be some of the most talented musicians ever put on an album. Now personally I think soppy songs for them are a restriction of true perfection in the long-run, but I'm always happy with what I've got, as well as solace of more illustrious material in their near future after Crash. On board with Dave Matthews' throaty howl is electric guitar god Tim Reynolds (a highly underrated musician), Stefan Lessard on bass, and LeRoi Moore and Boyd Tinsley as the two-man orchestra between the violin and the horn section. My only partial complaint is Carter Beauford's drumming. To say he's bad would be a denial of reality but I can't help that think that on this album (and consecutive ones), he's way overdoing it. You're playing pop, man; keeping it simple creates catchier material, at least for me. Simple drum fills could easily keep a good balance with the material provided, but I suppose going overkill works just as well financial-wise. Granted it does get much more fitting on later albums, but for this the over-complexity just seems abnormal when sitting next to something like '#41'. Just a thought. Even with that though the band has such a wonderful, unspoken cohesion that just makes them play so well. It truly is one of the highlights of the band in general.
Crash, while slightly entry-tier for someone more willing to get into it's progenitors' material, is still a colorful, inspiring release. Slow down to check this Crash out.
2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher
Originally written for Jazz Music Archives on 10/27/2016.
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