Walk Around The Moon

Dave Matthews Band

Bama Rags, 2023


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


It was only a matter of time before we got Dave Matthews’ pandemic album, and like many others from that time period, it’s an introspective, low-key and safe album. It’s also short; 12 songs spanning 42 minutes, with half the songs clocking in at three minutes or less.

Depending on your mileage from these guys, this could be a good thing, as the meandering has been trimmed; however, this also means a lot of the exciting parts have been excised as well. The best DMB songs get under your skin or into your heart, but there’s very little on Walk Around the Moon that draws in the listener.

This isn’t unusual for a band reaching its 30th year of existence, although it should noted that only Matthews, Carter Beauford (drums) and Stefan Lessard (bass) remain from the original lineup (saxophone and horn player Leroi Moore passed away in 2008 and violinist Boyd Tinsley left in 2018). Yes, there are still horns sprinkled throughout, and the occasional keyboard and strings, but there is more of an emphasis on groove instead of flourish or, well, excitement.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For example, look at the opening quartet on the 1996 album Crash: The snarky, tricky acoustic picking-meets-horn blatts of “So Much To Say,” the dramatic, ethereal “Two Step,” the lovely-yet-creepy “Crash Into Me” and the attitude rock stomp of “Too Much.” That is the metric by which many still judge DMB, even though they haven’t really revisited that sound on record since Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King. Honestly, that would have been a fine career capper.

That’s not to say Walk Around the Moon is bad by any means, and fans will find things to enjoy, just as they did on Come Tomorrow or Stand Up. The only real terrible song—and I mean, contender for worst DMB song ever—is “After Everything,” which starts off as a fine rocker but then devolves into an awkward, off-time and ugly hit piece, with Matthews not so much singing as grunting like a constipated hippopotamus.

The highlights, though: “Break Free” is a laconic, understated rocker, one that finally gets an album debut after being played live since 2006; “All You Wanted Was Tomorrow” closes with a jazzy jam; and the mushroom-trip of the title track grows on you after a few listens. Special note goes to “Madman’s Eyes,” the most adventurous track here, sounding like a sequel to 1998’s fantastic Arabic-inspired “The Last Stop.” Evidently it’s just as good live, hushing the crowd and drawing the listener in with its intense, controlled energy.

There’s just not much else here that will make an impact live or add to the band’s legacy, but as with most albums of this sort, it gives the guys something new to play in between the old warhorses, to keep the creative juices fresh. And certainly, the last three years have given many artists reasons to both pine about the state of the world and look inward at what’s really important in life. But it just feels like much of this music is coasting, lacking the fire and inspiration of the band’s best work.

Rating: C

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