Sweet and Wild: Dave Matthews _Away from the World_ Review

Dave is weird, but I love him.  DMB was a fresh taste of music for me that opened me up to the music of the 90s.  I don’t understand why his biggest fan base is frat boys in ball caps.  Shouldn’t y’all be listening to All American Rejects or something?  I’ll also never understand why I like him.  That boy is one filthy hedonist.  But he’s also an introspective philanthropist.  DMB’s music is a world rock mix of genres that knows how to have fun.

DMB is a band you have to see live.  They don’t just play their songs, they jam and improvise, and in between Dave fills the silence with jokes and gibberish.  He introduces “Two Step” with a new opening verse every show.  He once got so drunk he forgot the lyrics to “Proudest Monkey” and replaced the words with monkey sounds, as well as pidgin Spanish.  And don’t get me started on the bridges.

Nothing beats their first three albums, which cemented their legacy as one of the greats of the 90s.  But they haven’t faded since, they’ve just evolved.  Away from the World is their first album since they lost saxophonist Lerio Moore, to whom they dedicated their last album.  They’ve since picked up sax man Jeff Coffin from The Flecktones, as well as added trumpeteer Rashawn Ross.  Tim Reynolds, master guitarist and unofficial band member who’s been on nearly every album and tour, including duet tours with Dave, really stands out in this new album.

BROKEN THINGS
“War is the most vulgar madness and
winters can be so cruel
you can’t always change the way things are like
I can’t change the way I think of you”

We jump right into the box full of broken, beautiful people dancing here.  Like it’s counterpart, “Busted Stuff,” this song opens an album with a picture of a world weird and wonderful.  Except this this one sounds less skanky, and more classic Dave.

BELLY BELLY NICE
“Swimmin’ in the river
rollin’ in the mud
when the juice is drippin’ off your chin
one peach is not enough”

A pure flirtatious, naughty invitation to relish life and love, much like “Shake Me Like a Monkey”.  They also pull one of their old tricks—reworking an old nursery rhyme.  Though he always sings of food and love, it’s love that never fills the belly.  Or just sex. Dirty Dave.

MERCY
“Love is not a whisper or a weakness, no
love is strong”

The “American Baby” of the album, a radio-packaged, watered down call to change.  Turn your belief into action, because you are given the mercy to have a second chance at fixing a broken world.

GAUCHO
“We cross the oceans wide
built cities to the sky, oh Lord
looked up and we were flying
but will we not survive ourselves?”

An extension of the previous song, taking the theme even heavier, calling us to love the earth like the endangered first-world cowboys of the world, like the little starving, desperate children.  And if you’re not convinced, he had a children’s choir help him tell you.

SWEET
“You know the feeling
when you’re in too deep
and then you make it out
the taste is so sweet”

Dave breaks out the ukulele for this simple, hopeful lullaby to a loved one about to face a harsh world that will box us in and kill us.

RIFF
“I don’t know the man living in my head
if I don’t know the woman sleeping in my bed”

A man once wrote we modern men live our life in boxes.  This schizophrenic, jazzy ramble begs us to pull each other out of our boxes and come back down to the earth with one another, to reconcile and remember, to mend broken relationships becuase without each other we’re crazy (and maybe with each other too).  It’s a microcosm for the album, preaching the central message and layering itself with a variety musical strands.

BELLY FULL
“Spread yourself across my lips and I’ll spoon you in
the sweetest ting in all the world”

Dave has a habit of being repetitive with song titles, within and across albums.  This serenade to a love reprises the theme of “Belly Belly Nice”, assuring the lover that their belly will be full of love so long as they are together.

IF ONLY
“I am just a fool, baby
playin’ Mr. Cool, baby”

The song title and lyrics are heavily cliche for Dave.  Still, this back-n-forth rock is a fool bearing his heart, willing to use the most overused lines to win back his love.  He’s that crazy in love.  And maybe a little drunk.  My least favorite song.

ROOFTOP
“Standin’ on a rooftop
all these people watching
it’s hard to find the words when
you got so far to fall

This bold song revisits familiar tunes in the DMB repertoire, reminding us of Busted Stuff, but still brings fresh ingredients.  Here the fool, exhausting all his cliche, is diving head deep into crazy for his love.  The world is crazy, so we might as well get together and be two crazy people together.  Reynolds shines in this album with his trick guitar work.

SNOW OUTSIDE
“Come winter I will build you a fire
From the bones of who I used to be
Before you came and washed the weary away”

The love united proves worth it, enchanting everything around it.  Winter is no longer cruel, but pleasant.  This song gets a little country and cozy,  a little smooth and snowy.  Reynolds shines even more here with his stellar guitar work.  You can just hear and see the stars melting into snow and falling around.  Like snow piling up, the song peaks into a sonic jam session, then melts off.

DRUNKEN SOLDIER
“Fill up your head, fill up your heart
and take your shot, don’t waste your time
tryin’ to be something you’re not”

We end with a kind of jig song that fools around before forming itself like a flickering fire that rises out of the flame and dances before dying.  Like an unpredictable drunk who stands up to shout, sits back down to relax, and stands back up to return to his oration, the music and the lyrics bounce between urging you to be something worthy of living in this world and lulling you into relief that there’s a light up ahead.  Before long things get a little Pink Floyd.  It also sounds like Dave may have actually recorded this song plastered.

Sum of it all:
We are born and die alone and “our body is our box.”  When you open this CD you see a box full of interesting creatures.  It’s a fun album, like all of them, but much like the last one, when you stop listening the tunes don’t remain in your head quite like their old ones do.  But a lot of 90s bands are gone, and they just evolved, so they’re practically a different band now.  To compare this to their other new stuff, if you liked Big Whiskey you’ll like this one.  My one complaint is that this one lacks the lyrics of Dave.  They sound more like they’re written by Boyd (if you’ve heard his solo album, it drops of cliche).  Though it’s lyrically weak it’s musically strong.

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