Dave Matthews Band

BMG, 1996

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


After the Dave Matthews Band's recent spate of disappointing studio efforts, returning to this, one of the discs that made me a fan, sharpens in my mind what's been lost over the years. The answer is complexity.

On Under The Table And Dreaming, and again on Crash, the DMB effectively melded a diversity of musical styles into a dynamic whole, incorporating pop hooks, jazzy contemplations, jam-band virtuosity and dynamic textures into complex songs that touched on potent themes of love, death, sex, idealism and fatalism. More and more, the DMB in recent years has isolated these musical and lyrical ideas into single tracks, parsing the complexity of their early tapestry-like songs into simpler -- and much less remarkable -- individual threads.

That point made, we're here to review Crash. And it's well worth the pixels…

Looking back at the DMB's sophomore major-label effort, tracks one through six feel like they might just be the strongest sequence of songs the band has ever put together. The propulsive drive and nimble lyrics of "So Much To Say" lead into the dense, frenetic "Two-Step," the perfect foreplay for the supremely sensuous "Crash Into Me," itself a nice contrast to the throbbing, over-the-top "Too Much," which fades into the simply gorgeous two-part suite that is "#41" and "Say Goodbye."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The characters that Matthews populates all of his work with each make memorable appearances on this album. There's Scary Growling Dave ("Drive In Drive Out"), Lyrical Idealistic Dave ("Cry Freedom"), Carpe Diem Dave ("Tripping Billies"), Obsessed-With-Death Dave ("Lie In Our Graves"), and of course Sweetly Pleading Dave ("Say Goodbye," "Let You Down"), not to be confused with Let's-Get-It-On Dave ("Crash Into Me").

Like Under The Table, though, Crash is perhaps most notable for the incredible density and dynamics of these songs. "Too Much" is as good an example as any of what I mean, with its shrieking violins, bleating baritone sax and grinding vocals bouncing off one another like a musical mosh pit over the rhythm section's sledgehammer funk groove. It also displays one of the secrets to this disc's success, the seamless incorporation of "special guest" guitarist Tim Reynolds into the band for this disc. His electric work is rarely in the forefront, but consistently provides strong accents and potent rhythmic fuel for the heavier cuts.

Truly, the DMB -- Carter Beauford on drums, percussion and background vocals; Stefan Lessard on bass and piano; Matthews on lead vocals and acoustic guitar; Boyd Tinsley on acoustic and electric violins; and Leroi Moore on saxes, flute and whistle -- has never sounded better or more cohesive than on this disc. The stripping away of that complexity on albums like Everyday and Stand Up has reduced a remarkably unique sound into a distressingly ordinary one.

Crash is that rare beast, the follow-up album that's in every way a worthy successor to the remarkable album it followed. If you're a Matthews newbie who bought Stand Up and can't figure what the fuss is about, go deeper. The farther back you go, the better it gets.

Rating: A

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© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of BMG, and is used for informational purposes only.