Dave Matthews Band released a new album this summer. It is now fall and I’m not entirely sick of them. Now, if you would have told my high school self that this exact thing would ever happen I never would have believed you.
So what’s behind the totally esoteric stature of this new DMB album? Is the world just totally anti-white male?
I’m not sure, but I think it was last year I saw this concert performance of him online and the whole thing just hit me: the guy is just lurchy, big, brawny, broad-shouldered and awkward, speaking in a hick Virginian accent. He’s basically a born misfit, way, way more than my high school self would have ever envisioned, when his band was so on top of the world with “Crash into Me” et. al., soundtracking various caviar get togethers in my town (probably).
Or did people just look at the first track and see that it’s called “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)” and decide that this album sucked? Well, that wouldn’t be FULLY understandable, though maybe slightly. But da**, the way he sings on this opening song is just really beautiful, rhapsodic and fair, and it’s got a great close-picking guitar solo that really shreds, like an even more energetic version of Jeff Tweedy doing damage on the axe. Musically, “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)” is basic, leaning on simple major chord progressions and garage rock instrumentation, which is exactly part of what makes it good, juxtaposed favorably with the obtuse, nonsensical album opener “Pantala Naga Pampa” which attempted a jazz approximation and failed miserably.
Or maybe the girls don’t like him anymore because he sounds so, like, icky and old. True enough, he doesn’t sound like he’s missed too many Marlboro Reds after meals lately. “Can’t Stop,” though, batting second, does instrumentally ramble in with what I think is the first ever instance of electronica in the DMB catalogue and then this awesome blues riff on guitar (I was just in my last post ranting about how programmed drums can make for good psych-pop, when properly instrumentally adorned). I don’t know that the sax is that much needed in the intro to this song or the chorus, but still the project here seems bolstered by a predestined kinetic and swagger, Matthews spewing poignant insanities like “Won’t you kill me just a little” and “Free the beast inside of me”.
The opening words to “Here on out” make an interesting discussion topic especially in terms of the Me Too movement. Basically, Matthews starts the song, with bare, spare guitar in the background and no percussion, by declaring “Out of the corner of my eye / I caught you walk by / Chase you down / Is it ok if I call you mine”. Now, insofar as forcing yourself on women is something to be hereby frowned upon to an increased extent than it were prior the “Me Too,” maybe this whole thing is something that“creeped out” the women nowadays and maybe they wear the pants these days in “Dave Matthews criticism,” if not larger “music criticism” (and anyone who thinks those aren’t two different things wasn’t white and in high school in the late ‘90s).
But Matthews is just so da** reliable. I even like that “The Space between” song. Yeah, take away maybe “Pantala Naga Pampa,” the first song on Before These Crowded Streets, and probably “Where Are You Going?”, and pretty much all his songs are good – that first Under the Table and Dreaming album is just so da** full of feeling, with “Satellite” and “Dancing Nancies” plumbing the absolute depths of solitary rumination and “Jimi Thing”… well, nobody else on the planet could have written “Jimi Thing.” I’ll put it that way.
On the whole, the aforementioned “Here on out” is an easily digestible love song ballad ballasted by a gentle, precocious synth and Matthews’ confident vocals. Elsewhere, Come Tomorrow toggles zestily between spooky, tense jazz-ambience and full-force rock and roll in a way that keeps things big and
rhythmic, in that quintessential DMB way. This album even has a cool cover – sort of this Barogque- looking black and white sketch of a bunch of random nature objects like birds and trees… it reminded me of Edgar Allen Poe too because one of the little objects looks a lot like a raven. Poe died in Baltimore, a state bordering Dave Matthews home of Virginia, a place which in its own right tends to house myriads of cultural complications and struggles, all of which seem to feed the rich purposefulness, by cognitive combat, at work on Come Tomorrow.