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CD REVIEW

Dave Matthews Band: Away from the World

by Ryan Reed on September 10, 2012

RCA

Dave Matthews has always been the biggest question mark in his own band. Dave Matthews Band have one of the most rabid, loyal fan bases in popular music,but those who hate them really hate them, and most of that ill will is directed toward the frontman’s peculiar vocal delivery and drunken poetry.

Matthews’ style is certainly an acquired taste, and his band’s seven studio albums have run the gamut from boldly original (1994’s Under the Table and Dreaming_, 2009’s triumphant return-to-form, Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King ) to mind-blowingly bland (their streamlined 2001 pop grab-ass, Everyday ). The intermittently brilliant Away from the World falls somewhere between those two poles, with a few depressing duds offset by some of the band’s most adventurous, free-spirited music since the late ‘90s.

There’s a reason that even the band’s sloppiest live recordings tend to dwarf their studio counterparts. It’s the global jazz-fusion gusto of the players – that unmistakable blend of Carter Beauford’s jawdropping beats, Boyd Tinsley’s sizzling fiddle, Stefan Lessard’s deft basslines (and, before his tragic death, Leroi Moore’s magic-touch woodwinds). The further out DMB stretch, the more they sound like an actual band, and the better the results. “Broken Things” sets an intimidating precedent, built on a fidgety acoustic Matthews riff and transformed into an epic by Tinsley’s sawing lines and Jeff Coffin’s menacing sax. “The Riff” is, fittingly, based around Matthews’ bluesy acoustic guitar figure, but the group’s criss-crossing melodic interplay defines it. There’s a healthy amount of experimentation, too: “Rooftop” ascends a jazz-fusion spiral-staircase, culminating with Tim Reynolds’ spacey guitar solo. “Drunken Solider” moves from gorgeous acoustic fingerpicking to Rashawn Ross’ bold, mariachi styled horns.

When the band’s contributions are minimized, leaving glorified Matthews solo tunes, the quality dwindles. Lyrically, Matthews avoids his horny barfly schtick in favor of starry-eyed hippie idealism, peppering the album with vacant pseudo-political fluff. ( “We gotta do much more than believe if we wanna see the world change,” he sings on the otherwise excellent “Gaucho.” ) Meanwhile, there’s little musicality found on the lead single “Mercy” or the offkey, ukelele-by-numbers ballad “Sweet.”

Thankfully, the lukewarm filler on Away from the World is outweighed by a lot of mesmerizing musicianship – not to mention some of the band’s finest songs in more than a decade. At their best, DMB remain a genre of one.

Authors: Ryan Reed
Artist: Dave Matthews Band
Tags: dave matthews band
Album: Away from the World

Comments

Little musically found on Mercy? Maybe Mr. Reed should stick to his profession at Cumberlands AV club and leave the reviews to writers that actually can hear melody…even if it is only three chords.
That song reeks melody and musicianship.

By Hole - 09/10/12

Why are you criticizing Matthews truly profound and moving lyrics? Not to mention how you insult his playing. In a band that big, Matthew’s restraint is invaluable

By Seriously? - 09/10/12

Who is this moron that wrote this?

By J - 09/11/12

The reviews of this album remind me of the reviews when DMB first hit the scene. Critics don’t know what they’re listening to yet, but the music holds up. This is one of the rare albums (these days) that requires some time for it to resonate and sink in, but it will.

By Teddy T - 09/11/12

This review is sub-par. The album, gets better with every listen.

By Rob - 09/11/12

This album is some of DMBs best work in years. The musical genius is just mindblowing. This review from world renowned producer sums the album up perfectly http://www.chewthedirt.com/album-week-dave-matthews-band-away-world/ Can.t wait to see him perform “Mercy”!

By ChewTheDirt - 09/11/12

The author of this review should belly belly nice his mother and leave the music industry before i find him and crack his pantala naga pampa

By MIk - 09/11/12

Listen from 2:30-2:40 on Drunken Soldier and there is not much there to describe. Although everytime I hear that part my skin is overwhelmed with sensation from emotions of the music.

By curtis - 09/11/12

I agree people either love or hate dmb… im one of the people who loves his music. I have listened to the album a few times already, everytime i listen to it, i like it a little more. With that being said, i feel as though the songs are very well done, but a little slow for my taste. I have trouble picturing many of these songs being good concert songs. Overall, i feel like it was a good album, but lacks a little of the excitement i have grown to know and love about the dave matthews band.

By nick - 09/11/12

Not a bad review, but I disagree about Mercy as I think the end is absolutely beautiful…I’d have that outro play at my funeral.

By Steve - 09/11/12

This review is pretty spot-on —in fact, it is way too generous.  Although I understand loyalty to the band (I’m as big a fan as anyone), the truth of the matter is that the band has not evolved positively in the past ten years.  Although the guys are approaching twilight years, there is a lot of reaching and purposelessness in the music.  I’ve been struggling to encapsulate dave’s individual stagnation, but the review puts it perfectly:  “Lyrically, Matthews avoids his horny barfly schtick in favor of starry-eyed hippie idealism, peppering the album with vacant psudo-political fluff.”  That pretty much captures not just the “vacancy” of this album, but the past three as well. 

The fact of the matter is, Dave is not 23 anymore and his musical imagination, not to mention his vocal range, has waned.  That’s probably chalked up to family and other positive changes in his personal life, which are to be applauded and expected.  But the most honest critic—and Dave himself—has to face an album like this and say that he can’t write an original song anymore.  Only the Beatles can get away with five or six cheesy “all you need is love” or “stand up with me for change” songs (and that lasted only until 1964, after which their music only got better).  The one edge that Dave Matthews Band always had, just as the Beatles or any timeless musicans do, is the HONESTY of their craft.  It is really sad because I don’t feel an honesty in this album or anything the band has produced in the past ten years.

The band will continue to tour and continue to be the best live show in the world, no matter what they’re playing.  They are my musical backbone and always will be.  But to kid yourself about the quality of an album like this is a disservice to the incredible first ten years of the band.  I’m not sure what the prescription is, but it may be something this reviewer is getting at—perhaps the band could be helped by a young voice who can help with songwriting.  All of the “addition” over the past five years has been out of necessity (Jeff Coffin) or the need for flourish (the new brass), but as talented as these musicians are, they do not add to the quality of the music, but contribute to its bland stagnation.  And as exciting as it is to see Steve Lillywhite again, it looks like he has bought into the poppy duds that he was fired to embrace in the first place.

By joe - 09/11/12

I think that the original Writer/reviewer and Joe, are the same type of person that thinks Taylor Swift is a true country artist. I have been a DMB fan since 94 and I remember those tunes that separated them from the rest of the artists of the 90’s.  Now in 2012, the band has produced something that still holds DMB tradition and still separates them from the rest of the music scene of today.  When the music industry turns to pure electronic and synthesized artist, then maybe finally people will miss the craftsmanship and or musicality of this band.

By Phil - 09/12/12

Where to start? This person who did this review isn’t educated on Dave or the band. Like every cd of there’s, the more you listen it gets better. I will say this is not was I was expecting to be on the album. Every since tim Reynolds came back to the band they have been song more hard . This cd is not rock, not jazzy and not jam bandy. It is 100% adult CONTEMPERARY . Very slow and very quiet , more do than anything they have done before. I have heard gaucho sweet and mercy 4x this summer live, good songs but they slow the concert down. No songs on this album seem to translate to a hood jam jazzy good old fashioned rock and roll song for there concerts. In recent years the release of CORNBREAD ,EH HEE, SHAKE ME LIKE A MONKEY, FUNNY THE WAY IT IS, IDEA OF YOU, 27 , BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE, CRAZY EASY, ALIGATOR PIE etc etc the band has been on a role knocking new songs out of the ball park. I expected the same from this album, but it caught me by surprised by the lack of gusto and umph . I am a little dissapointed by the sound as an initial reaction. However SPOON is my all time favorite song . So that being said, I will probably love this album after I learn the words by heart and here them perform most or all the album live. As everyone knows all there music sounds better live with the exception of WHAT WOULD YOU SAY( because it lacks the harmonica) and SPOON ( because it lacks the banjo, alanis morisette, and the play it to fast live). Two years from now, this album will kick ass when they figured out the right way to play it and Dave figures out the right way to sing it.

By Adam - 09/12/12

I agree with the article, but I don’t think this review is as negative as what some of you think. The ultimate message here is that there are a couple quiet/slow “duds”, but they don’t hold back the rest of album. What’s a great album without contrast?  Also, what isn’t original about this album? I think “Joe” has mistaken the band’s originality and their signature sound for an “original song”. If he is looking for the same feeling he had the first time he heard Remember Two Things or UTAD, he certainly isn’t going to find that, but I think you can sum it up with Dave’s own lyrics “I’m too old to want to be young again”. How do you rekindle that original magic? I’d say that only happens once; it’s like an unconditional love that is born star-struck and matures through the years. You love that original feeling, but there’s no going back. You’re more mature now. The relationship is different but the people are the same and the love is still there. growing. The band is maturing and so are it’s fans. They are the most creative unit out there and they relentlessly produce original music. If pieces sound like Jack Johnson or the Black T’s or the Avett Brothers, or Mumford and Sons ...or Phil Philips, it’s because they are that original. They influenced these artists. They are one of the most creative and original bands since the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, and Pink Floyd, and after nearly 20 years you still can’t label them or measure them to anyone else. I think the article gives them the greatest compliment a band could ever get after 20 years: “DMB remain a genre of one.”. And another compliment to the album itself: The couple of “lukewarm” “duds” are far “outweighed by a lot of mesmerizing musicianship—not to mention some of the band’s finest songs in more than a decade.” Love this album. Big Whiskey was the best since BFTCS and this digs even deeper. A few more jams between tracks would be nice, but no complaints. Drunken Soldier is their best song in years. There’s a little forshadowing about where they might go with this song, live…A transistion into a certain track from Dark Side of the Moon, anybody?

By B - 09/12/12

I think one of the greatest things about this band is its constant evolution.  Those of us that spend countless hours poring through live, sometimes bootleg, performances - justifying our craft to our friends, family, and, most importantly, ourselves by pointing out subtle differences between the 22 versions of Two Step we have in our iTunes library - understand that it is rarely, if at all, a live, studio duplicate that becomes the most beloved version of a song. Lyrics change. Riffs change. Outros, intros, interpolations, and jams all change. It’s why we’ve all seen so many shows. These older albums aren’t nostalgia-ridden glory-day jams, they’re just mature. Perhaps they were more unique initially - that’s really a matter of opinion - but each of his early hits had blemishes that were, over time healed by hundreds of live performances. It’s the slip-ups, the improvs, the guest performances, and the profoundly inspired moments of genius that lead to a tweak here or a down-beat there. Simply put, whether you like or dislike any of the songs on this album now is meaningless. They’re all just out of the oven - freshly-spanked and still crying - years away from becoming of-age. It’s clear to me that some of these songs have the potential to cement themselves among the all-time greats, but, again, only time will tell. We can only hope that the band spends another 20 years together to allow these tunes to blossom in the same way RTT/UTTAD/BTCS did.

There’s something to be said about a record that emulates a fine wine and becomes more refined over time. It’s a unique characteristic of this band’s music that is so absolutely divergent from everything else that is pumped out of the commercial music industry these days. If nothing else, it’s certainly refreshing.

By Joey - 09/12/12

Don’t have a problem with this review. Most of it’s true. I’m a DMB fan and this album is kinda dull. The better tunes don’t really “take you there” and the boring ones meander for far too long. Also, the better tracks sound like less-inspiring recreations of previous songs, both musically and lyrically. I think the album is missing a flow and definitely suffers from Leroi’s voice. He really added a lot of soulful lines that acted as the underlying hook on a lot of DMB’s classic tracks (i.e. wastin’ time). And while I’m more concerned with melody than lyrics, the whole “jack and jill went up the hill” chant and “you got to do more than believe if you really want to change this” kinda made me barf in my mouth - lyrics that are kinda beneath them. Anyways, that’s my two cents.

By Dan E . - 09/13/12

Don’t have a problem with this review. Most of it’s true. I’m a DMB fan and this album is kinda dull. The better tunes don’t really “take you there” and the boring ones meander for far too long. Also, the better tracks sound like less-inspiring recreations of previous songs, both musically and lyrically. I think the album is missing a flow and definitely suffers from Leroi’s voice. He really added a lot of soulful lines that acted as the underlying hook on a lot of DMB’s classic tracks (i.e. wastin’ time). And while I’m more concerned with melody than lyrics, the whole “jack and jill went up the hill” chant and “you got to do more than believe if you really want to change this” kinda made me barf in my mouth - lyrics that are kinda beneath them. Anyways, that’s my two cents.

By Dan E . - 09/13/12

Don’t have a problem with this review. Most of it’s true. I’m a DMB fan and this album is kinda dull. The better tunes don’t really “take you there” and the boring ones meander for far too long. Also, the better tracks sound like less-inspiring recreations of previous songs, both musically and lyrically. I think the album is missing a flow and definitely suffers from Leroi’s voice. He really added a lot of soulful lines that acted as the underlying hook on a lot of DMB’s classic tracks (i.e. wastin’ time). And while I’m more concerned with melody than lyrics, the whole “jack and jill went up the hill” chant and “you got to do more than believe if you really want to change this” kinda made me barf in my mouth - lyrics that are kinda beneath them. Anyways, that’s my two cents.

By Dan E . - 09/13/12

Lack of inflection of voice that represents Dave’s 100% heart and soul. In a way it reminds me of the album we all know as THE LILLYWHITE SESSIONS that was never released. Dull slow and lacking a bit of everything. However this cd isn’t as good as that. That being said…. THE LILLYWHITE SESSIONS became BUSTED STUFF. Songs were removed, new songs added, songs were cleaned up, lyrics were changed and the band really learned how to play them live. Bartender , grey street, big eyed fish, you never know are all apart of that album which are now excellent live songs. Not to mention WHERE ARE YOU GOING , CAPTAIN and others. As much as my initial reaction of the AWAY FROM THE WORLD album is to say… Worst Dave Matthews band album ever, I remind myself to listen again and again. It gets better each time . Then remind myself all these songs will start to change throughout time with concerts , they will take on a life of there own. Some will become longer jams, some will have some lyrics slightly altered, some will become louder and some will become staple songs. Two years from now I will be raving how good this album has become…... I’ve always wondered why the band doesn’t skip the studio albums and release new albums with new songs on a live album full of nothing but the new songs… Off to listen to the album again to learn all the words by heart

By Adam - 09/13/12

Drunken Soldier saved the album for me. Used to be a big fan, not as much since Stand Up. But Drunken Soldier brings be back. Album is light on bass, which is unfortunate

By Mike - 09/14/12
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