Friday, July 17, 2009

An Introduction to Dave Matthews Band

Dave Matthews Band - Stand UpThis is one of those posts that probably would have been a better idea if I had posted it about a month ago. Or, you know, around 1994. But, we here at Exfanding truly have no sense of time and/or space, so today I'd like to introduce you all to one of my favorite bands.

Now, you might be asking, "Alex, why aren't you yelling something crazy and barely comprehensible about comic books, or the distribution of comic books?"

"Well," I'd answer, "Because I'm trying to branch out in my posting topics. Diversify, if you will."

Okay, fine, you got me. It's actually because I don't really have anything to yell at today in the world of comics. I haven't read any of the titles I bought on Wednesday, and I probably won't get around to them until sometime next week.

So, instead, let's talk music.

One of my regrets so far with having this blog is that I haven't spoken about any of my other passions and hobbies. Now, there's a pretty good reason for this. I don't have that many passions/hobbies beyond reading (both with and without pictures), writing (for this blog and for other things), and watching baseball. So my posts have centered around those three things pretty exclusively.

What I've managed to leave out almost completely, however, is my love for music, which I guess is so deeply ingrained into my being that I kinda just take it for granted and don't really consider it a "hobby."

But I'm pretty sure that's a good definition of a "passion." So, in the next few weeks especially, I'm going to rectify that (or, at least, I'll try), and I plan on starting today.

Driving in to work this morning, I realized that I've been listening to the same music in my car for the past couple of months. I have a fancy iPhone, and a fancy (four dollar) wire thingy that connects the iPhone to a jack that's very inconveniently located somewhere underneath my car's center console. And that little wire thingy lets me play my iPhone music through my car's speakers, so that's what I listen to on my way to and from work. And to and from the comics shop.

Every day for the past who knows how long, the voice coming through those speakers is the same, and it belongs to Dave Matthews, the lead singer and songwriter for the aptly named Dave Matthews Band. That got me to thinking (which, admittedly, is a bad thing) about my taste in music over the years. My taste, just like it does for many others, has changed dramatically as I've grown older.

My music listening is cyclical, and sometimes I'll play Dylan, nonstop, for two weeks straight. Recently, I was on a huge Neil Young kick, and his songs were on my car stereo, my iPhone, my home CD player, and my record player (yes, as in vinyl). There have been whole days where I've had Zeppelin playing continuously, either in the car or on my headphones at work.

I'm somewhat (read: very much) obsessed with the Beatles, and with John Lennon's music, words, and voice in particular, and I have his acoustic recordings on my person at all times. Seriously.

But as I sat down to think about what to post today, I realized that, besides Lennon, there has really only been one other constant in my music listening throughout the course of my life.

And it's the Dave Matthews Band.

I bought their album, Under the Table and Dreaming, in 1994, the year it was released. Since I was a kid, my favorite song has always been "Ants Marching," which was the second single off that album. (The first was "What Would You Say")

Dave Matthews Band - Under the Table and Dreaming"Ants" is one of those songs that puts me in a very specific time, in a very specific place. The song is about growing old, or, more accurately, the fight against doing such (foolish) things. It's about traffic and work and bills and morning routines and the desire to go back to a time when afternoons were spent, well, under the kitchen table and dreaming. About what you'll be when you grow up, and about baseball games, and adventures, and cowboys and super heroes and whatever.

For me, the song was released when I was still very much in that under the table and dreaming age bracket, and as I've grown up, "Ants" remains a poignant reminder of days gone by.

But it's not a sad song for me, and it's not meant to be a sad song. Like many Dave Matthews Band (DMB, or Dave, from here on out) songs, it's hopeful and it leaves the door open for finding one's way.

And, like I said, it's my favorite DMB song. Maybe because it was the first one I ever heard and connected with, or maybe it's just because I am still very much an under the table and (many times, stupidly) dreaming kind of person.

I dunno.

In any case, just for those keeping score at home, before Under the Table the band released a 1991 demo CD, and followed that up with the 1994 EP, Recently. When Table came out, it hit big, and the band was well on its way. The follow up album, Crash, proved that the band had staying power, going platinum seven times.

Dave Matthews Band - CrashAfter Crash came Before These Crowded Streets, a much darker album than the previous two, but still a huge commercial and critical success. The songs on those first three albums are timeless, in my opinion, and will be considered classics in the years to come. Many fans argue that Streets was the last great DMB album, but I'm one of those people who completely disagrees.

Dave Matthews Band - Before These Crowded StreetsThe following offerings, Everyday, Busted Stuff, and Stand Up, while admittedly not as groundbreaking as the first three albums, include some great music, such as "The Space Between," "Everyday," "Grey Street," "Grace is Gone," "Bartender," "Out of My Hands," and...well...jeez. I have no idea how people can say these three albums are the "weaker" DMB efforts, as they're just loaded with great music.

The band's latest release, Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King, is in part a tribute to original band member Leroi Moore, who passed away last year. Grux shipped in early June, and has returned the band to prominence after a few years of in-fighting and solo albums.

Dave Matthews Band - Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux KingPersonally, I think a case could be made for Grux as the definitive DMB album. Longtime fans will love it for many of the same reasons new listeners will love it. There's a tremendous variety of sounds on this album, and each song has a very different feel. My favorite is "Dive In," a song about global warming, and summertime, and apathy, and many other things that make you stop and think.

I realize I'm doing anyone unfamiliar with the band's music a great disservice because I'm not embedding clips of them playing some of these songs. But, I don't know how to do that, and even if I did, I wouldn't want to cripple the site for anyone browsing on a mobile device.

So, if you're interested (and I hope you are), do a quick search on YouTube, and you'll find all of the songs mentioned in this post. I encourage anyone who has never sat down and listened to a Dave song to start with "Ants Marching," then go to "Grey Street," just to see the variety in what the band is all about.

And, as you'll notice immediately, there are many different live versions of each song up for your listening pleasure. That's because DMB has always been one of the foremost "workhorse" bands, touring continuously throughout each year.

I've been to three Dave shows (two when I was in high school, one as a Freshman in college), and each time was a unique experience. Their play list varies greatly show to show, and they release a plethora of live albums every year. They are the only band (Zep included) that I can stand to hear the same songs, played a little bit (or a lot) differently at various shows, and enjoy.

Some critics knock them as a "jam band," and while that is sometimes the case with their live shows, as some of their songs can go on for over ten minutes, you get such a diverse array of instruments that every part of every song stays fresh and new.

The instrumental lineup in any Dave song includes guitars (Dave and usually virtuoso Tim Reynolds), base (Stefan Lessard), and driving, amazing drums (Carter Beauford). The most unique aspect of the band's sound comes from the violin (played by Boyd Tinsley), a brass section, and a bevy of back-up vocalists.

I could go on and on about each DMB member and what he brings to the band, but I'll let you go check them out for yourselves. I will say that the combination of musicians in DMB creates a sound that is wholly unique in music today, and it's one that I have been in love with for the past 15 years.

Also, for anyone into cover songs, Dave does several, and he does them well. Check out DMB's rendition of the Dylan-penned (and Hendrix-made) "All Along the Watchtower" at Woodstock, 1999 and be on the lookout for the band's recent cover of Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer."

Finally, in closing, I want to say how much I've enjoyed writing about DMB today, and I hope to write more (much shorter--I promise!) posts on music in the near future.

Happy Friday, everyone, and we'll see you tomorrow.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Dive In?! For the band's return to greatness, Time Bomb, Squirm, Lying in the Hands of God, and Baby Blue are more appropriate.
I think there's no doubt that Everyday and Stand Up don't touch the brilliance of UTTAD, Crash, BTCS, and BS. Songs like I Did It, Smooth Rider, When the World Ends, and Steady as We Go are proof of that.
That said, this band has never had a "bad time." Even when they were touring the weaker albums, their shows were wonderful and they continued to tour.
No matter what, they're my favorite band of all time and I'm glad you appreciate them too. Nice read, even if I don't agree with every word