Release Date: 02.27.01
Record label: BMG / RCA
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
A New Day
by: matt halverson
The success of Dave Matthews Band is a head scratching collection of contradictions. Without fail, the five-piece, sonically unconventional collective sells out stadiums whether in support of an album or not, yet album sales of the band's previous releases have never matched ticket sales. With the exception of tight, punchy radio hits like "What Would You Say" and "Too Much," their songs have consistently failed to crack the Top 40. Commercial success was always one step away, but with its fourth release, Everyday, the band is poised to take one confident leap forward.
Born from the ashes of a scrapped album recorded with former producer Steve Lillywhite, Everyday teams Matthews and Co. with super producer Glen Ballard. Infused with Ballard's pop sensibility, the band has pared down its usual six- and seven-minute arrangements to a collection of four-minute tunes tailor-made for radio air play. Gone are the extended saxophone and violin solos of LeRoi Moore and Boyd Tinsley, respectively, that had contributed to DMB's signature blend of jazz, folk and world music. Matthews himself has even broadened his arsenal by employing an electric baritone guitar on the majority of the albums twelve tracks.
The changes have had an unmistakable impact on the band's sound. While in the past, Matthews' acoustic guitar offered little more than a rhythm upon which Tinsley and Moore would layer more complex arrangements, here his new electric melodies take center stage and push the music in a rock-influenced direction. The album's first single, "I Did It," is driven by a dirty, jangling riff uncharacteristic of anything else in the band's history. By plugging in on "The Space Between" and "Fool to Think," Matthews takes songs that would have been sweet ballads reminiscent of the popular "Crash Into Me" and gives them a sweeping power suitable to both radio and concert settings.
Though Matthews' electric evolution has strengthened his melodies, the improvement comes at the expense of Tinsley and Moore, who are reduced to background musicians. Though the latter manages to squeeze short blasts of his baritone sax into the album's opening song, "So Right," fans of Tinsley's charged violin will struggle to find his contribution to Everyday. The musical reconstruction may create a fresh take on the band's sound, but the violin's omission takes away a large part of what made that sound so unmistakable.
Matthews will be the first to admit lyrics are not his strong point. Although he's singing a happier tune now, the band put such a priority on altering the music's direction that he fails to stray far enough from familiar subjects. His songs have always hinted at the light at the end of the tunnel without ever stepping into it, but at times on Everyday, he's standing smack dab in the middle of the sun's rays. "So Right" is a rousing celebration of a successful relationship - a subject rarely found in previous songs. As he croons "Our love is so right / I won't waste a minute here tonight / Our love is so right / And tonight my dance is all about you," he finally gets the girl instead of staring at her through her bedroom window.
The true test of a band's staying power is its ability to change and evolve. Though not a radical departure from previous releases, Dave Matthews Band's latest is a sign that the days of fifteen-minute jams could be behind them. But, there's a reason the band's concerts have always been bigger sellers than their albums - the songs never sound better than they do live. Until now, Matthews' studio sessions merely served as dress rehearsals for his band's yearly touring exodus. And with that in mind, the reaction of the band's core fanbase will determine whether the new sound will propel DMB to the commercial success it has never quite attained.