The Dave Matthews Band sounded pretty close to fully formed on their 1994 debut, ‘Under the Table and Dreaming,’ but their follow-up album, 1996’s ‘Crash,’ is the record where they become the Dave Matthews Band we know today. Their first album is wobbly, tentative and basically a gateway to their concerts, which were quickly developing a reputation as must-see events. ‘Crash,’ which celebrates its 17th anniversary today, began focusing on the songs.

Like ‘Under the Table and Dreaming,’ ‘Crash’ was produced by Steve Lillywhite, the studio vet who’s worked on records by the Rolling Stones, Talking Heads and U2. Pushing Matthews’ new set of songs to the front and sharpening the frontman’s vocal presence Lillywhite emphasized the band’s key element: the expert interplay among the five members. Nonstop touring in support of their debut album tightened the band considerably over the past couple of years.

And it’s the performances that power ‘Crash.’ Songs like ‘So Much to Say,’ ‘Two Step,’ ‘Too Much,’ ‘Tripping Billies’ and ‘Proudest Monkey’ are showcases for the band’s playful, spirited mix of violin, saxophone and acoustic guitar. They’re essentially launching points for extended jams, which gain even more heft onstage. And in ‘Crash Into Me,’ a not-too-subtle sex song, Matthews underscores melody (a sign of things to come) and reached the Top 20 for the first time.

‘Crash’ debuted at No. 2 and has sold more than 7 million copies since its release. It remains the band’s bestselling album. In addition to ‘Crash Into Me,’ which reached No. 18, four other singles were pulled from the LP, including ‘Too Much’ and ‘So Much to Say,’ both of which hit the Top 50 (the former, as well as ‘Crash Into Me,’ were Top 5 hits at modern rock). Two years later, the Dave Matthews Band returned with ‘Before These Crowded Streets,’ kicking off their string of six straight (and counting) No. 1 albums, and giving even more attention to the songs.

Watch Dave Matthews Band's Video for 'Crash Into Me'