Deep Album Cuts Vol. 109: Dave Matthews Band

I don't think a lot of people have moderate feelings about Dave Matthews Band. Millions have a rabid love for them, they're considered bad and hated by perhaps even more people. Even at their peak of popularity, though, when I was in college and their music seemed to just waft through the dorms and many of my peers would refer simply to 'Dave' in a tone of reverence, I couldn't quite muster hate, there was always a mild affection that would only turn to annoyance in times of prolonged exposure. And since their 9th album Come Tomorrow is due out this week, and I had a nice time covering a Dave Matthews acoustic show a while back, I thought I'd look back at their catalog a little.

Dave Matthews Band deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):
1. Drive In, Drive Out
2. Pantala Naga Pampa
3. The Best Of What's Around
4. #41
5. Say Goodbye
6. Dancing Nancies
7. The Stone
8. Dreams Of Our Fathers
9. Rhyme & Reason
10. Bartender
11. One Sweet World
12. The Song That Jane Likes
13. Warehouse
14. Lie In Our Graves

Tracks 11 and 12 from Remember Two Things (1993)
Tracks 3, 6, 9 and 13 from Under The Table And Dreaming (1994)
Tracks 1, 4, 5 and 14 from Crash (1996)
Tracks 2 and 7 from Before These Crowded Streets (1998)
Track 8 from Everyday (2001)
Track 10 from Busted Stuff (2002)

I'm hot and cold with Dave Matthews as a songwriter -- he's one of the more overtly Peter Gabriel-influenced singers and songwriters of his generation, but he also quite often sings in weird guttural tones and/or says weird horny stuff, sometimes both at the same time. But the band's musicianship is, obviously, pretty impressive. I'm not always big on drummers who have double-bass drum pedals and a ton of different toms and cymbals, but Carter Beauford is pretty incredible and distinctive, and I didn't realize he was already almost 40 when the band started selling millions. "Drive In, Drive Out," man, that's my shit. If I could only hear one of their songs again for the rest of my life, it'd be that one.

One thing I particularly like about Dave Matthews Band is their unique palette. Where a lot of jam bands center around electric guitar solos, Matthews plays an acoustic guitar almost like a percussion instrument. Where horns and violins are often used in rock music in the context of big anonymous brass and string section arrangements, saxophonist LeRoi Moore and violinist Boyd Tinsley each add fairly distinctive individual voices to the bands -- or did anyway, since Moore died in 2008 and Tinsley abruptly left the band this year amidst a sexual harassment lawsuit.

I decided to cut things off after the first decade or so of their career, partly because they have pretty long songs, so I don't have room for that many in my self-imposed 80-minute cap, and partly because I just have way less interest in the later albums. I feel like you get a nice creative arc in the first 5 studio albums: the 3 career-defining '90s blockbusters, and then the two albums that came out of the muddled period where Matthews wrote an album, shelved it and wrote another with Alanis Morrissette co-writer Glen Ballard, and then went back and revised and released the shelved album. The album made with Ballard, Everyday, features a lot more electric guitar than any other Matthews album, which I find grating. But it was one of several Dave Matthews Band albums in a binder of CDs my dad left behind that I've had in my car since he died, and revisiting it recently I think it's more of a piece with the band's catalog than I'd thought, "Dreams Of Our Fathers" is great. That video for "I Did It" was definitely a nadir for the band, though.

Since live shows are their bread and butter, I tried to cover a lot the most played non-singles in their repertoire. But true to jam band tradition, a number of their most popular live tracks never appeared on a studio album, including "Recently," "Granny," "Cornbread," "Help Myself," and "Minarets." So I included a couple of songs from their 1993 indie live album Remember Two Things, which sold a million copies after the band's later mainstream success.
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