Sunday, September 16, 2012

Away From The World

I've sorta stopped listening to the Dave Matthews Band studio stuff a long, long while ago. After going through the many live albums they have, I rarely went back to the originals. The band finally took a break off extensive touring last year, presumably to start work on their new album. I'm glad they chose to work with producer, Steve Lillywhite again -- their previous collaborations were Under The Table & Dreaming and Crash. He understands them like no other producer does, and he knows exactly how to bring out the best in each of the crazily talented members. Away From The World is a stunning album, musically. It has a very classic '90s DMB vibe. Melody, melody, melody -- that's what it's all about. Unfortunately Dave Matthews has decided to impart lots of lyrical cliches into several of the songs.

Mercy, the lead single, is one of those 'we can change the world if we love one another' kind of songs. The theme continues into Gaucho, which I initially thought was a Steely Dan cover. It's good, but the lyrics are just too unoriginal, and I actually cringed once when I heard the children singing. It then transitions into Sweet, perhaps the first DMB tune to feature ukulele. It's exactly what it is; sweet, and as catchy as anything they've ever done. The Riff is a monster; signature DMB sound. The instrumental breakdowns sound like Grateful Dead's Terrapin Station on acid.

Belly Belly Nice (poor title) reminds me of Shake Me Like A Monkey from Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King. There's a lot of sexuality in the lyrics, which Dave can pen really well. Saxophonist Jeff Coffin has long assimilated his skills into the band, ever since the tragic passing of LeRoi Moore in 2008. Big Whiskey might have sounded like as if Roi were still in the band, but on here, there are no more of his distinctive licks. With Jeff together with trumpeter Rashawn Ross, they make a powerful duo. Meanwhile, violinist Boyd Tinsley is the reason why this band remains so great. And not to mention Tim Reynolds, guitar extraordinaire, bringing some balance. So it's a bigger band now, though that doesn't necessarily mean bigger sound all the time. The instruments breathe well, thanks to Lillywhite's production.

My favorite is If Only. DMB just knows how to create sexy grooves. Classy songwriting. The words flow so beautifully with the addictive rhythm. Rooftop is as blues rocksy as it gets. Snow Outside has the band going into jam band mode, and it once again, showcases the insane fluidity of Carter Beauford's drumming. This one will probably be much longer in concert; and that can be said the same for the epic closer, Drunken Soldier. Even the song's long outtro takes a page from the famous chord progression of Pink Floyd's Breathe In The Air. Solid album overall, so much better than Everyday and Stand Up, but in my opinion, it can't beat Big Whiskey. I still very much wanna see DMB live again.