Dave Matthews Band, ‘Away From the World’ – Album Review
Dave Matthews Band have been an omnipresent noodle factory for the better part of two decades. By this point, you’re going to be into Dave, turned off by Dave or, like most of us, harbor a long-hidden soft spot for Dave.
Now, for those putting on a hipper-than-thou front, DMB is cred Kryptonite. And yeah, if your relationship to music is limply superficial and based on cultivating cool points from what you listen to, you’re not going to be into a band that’s this un-hip.
But if you’re real with yourself, you probably have at least one DMB song that gives you the warm fuzzies. I’ll cop to still loving ‘Live at Luther College.’ I’ll even cop to having a semi-clandestine summer fling with a college roommate’s sister in spite of (or maybe because of) her DMB dancer hip tattoo.
So often, Dave Matthews Band don’t deserve the lumps thrown their way. But the band’s latest , ‘Away From the World’ is — no real surprise here — not that great.
It’s probably not going to bring DMB any new fans, and it’s definitely not going to make any of their notoriously loyal older fans jump ship. This is, after all, an album made by a group that has already found success, and that remains popular a good 12 years since last being relevant. (That estimate is based on when the band had the awful foresight to scrap the excellent, long-bootlegged ‘Lilywhite Sessions’ to record and release their first truly bad album, ‘Everyday.’)
The 11 songs on ‘Away From the World’ are music to play at concerts when the crowd needs to go get another beer, before Dave & Co. get into ‘Trippin Billies’ or ‘Jimi Thing.’ And that’s fine by me. This the sound of a band that’s comfortable, that doesn’t need to convert anyone to their music. In a way, this kind of complacent mediocrity is the sound of success.
All of the DMB keystones you’d expect are here for the taking. The good ones, like Dave’s epiglottal octave-jumping and Boyd Tinsley‘s string accompaniment — Tinsley’s violin is the enduring co-singer of the band — carry the album throughout. But the band’s ickier tropes are in effect here, too. Matthews wraps his tongue around some ‘Crash Into Me’-style kine-bud horniness and, oh, can we please suspend children’s choirs from any and all new music from now to the end of recorded time?
The best tracks on ‘Away From the World’ — in particular, ‘Rooftop,’ which is as fine of a song as the band has cut in years — do a great job at lathering up some ’90s nostalgia and dusting off those long-dormant reasons why you may have liked Dave Matthews Band, in all it’s bland, innocuous, white bread uncoolness, in the first place.
Last night, I bought a copy of ‘Crash’ out of a bargain bin for a long, solo car trip I’m taking this week. Advantage: Dave.