Away From The World

Dave Matthews Band

RCA, 2012

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The 2008 death of saxophonist Leroi Moore shook the Dave Matthews Band out of its musical funk and resulted in the excellent Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, which was easily the band's best album since 1998. Its follow-up Away From The World isn't quite up to the same level, but nevertheless shows an engaged DMB back in business, moving on without Leroi and still doing what they love.

Part of the reason for Away from the World’s success is the return of producer Steve Lillywhite, who helmed the band’s three classic '90s albums, but this one is definitely part of the new-century DMB, where the songs are shorter and tighter, with crossover appeal and a little less ambition (at least, on record). And while Matthews still has his solo moments where the band seems like backups, the moments where they truly play as a collective are bracing and a reminder of why so many people love these guys, even long after they have moved on from their college years.

As with many DMB songs, there is a lot going on that one may not absorb immediately; only with repeated listens will the intricacies and details sink in. "Broken Things" is a stellar album opener, building on the best of Big Whiskey but sounding like the DMB of old, the end result one of their best songs in a decade. Matthews still sings about similar themes throughout, but here seems content with his current place in life: “You can’t always change the way things are / Just like I can’t change the way I think about you / Oh my love, my heart is set on you.”

“Belly Belly Nice” mixes light funk and light rock to solid results, “Gaucho” features some understated violin and acoustic guitar work and the line “We’ve gotta do much more than believe / If we want to see the world change,” and "The Riff" builds on the band's tension-release abilities in its slow buildup and lyrical detailing of love gone bad. "Drunken Soldier" is about as ambitious as the disc gets, a long multi-part suite with some interesting ideas but not much of a payoff, when it's all said and done.

The sensitive solo Matthews is more prevalent in the middle of the disc on "Mercy" and "Sweet," though it's nothing he hasn't already done, while "Rooftop" and the deceptively simple and lovely "If Only" are fine songs as well.

Away From The World shows Matthews and his band settling comfortably into their place in life, and if that means the fire and ambition of the old days has mostly gone (at least, on record), or if it means these songs don't have the impact and staying power that marks the band's best work, that's just because it's been replaced with a different kind of feeling and approach. The DMB is growing up with its audience and it's good to have a trusted friend.

Rating: B-

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