Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King
Ok, let’s get this straight before we get started: old DMB was some of the best music ever. Under the Table and Dreaming is still one of the treasured albums in my collection. Crash was very good. But hearing a studio album from these guys was like seeing a Monet painting through a dirty window; you could still make it out, but it was a shadow of the original. The Live at Red Rocks recording is absolutely amazing, especially when the crowd is singing Ants Marching louder than Dave is. I can still remember the first time I heard it on a radio station in Denver in 1995 and almost had to pull my car over. Nothing and nobody sounded like they did then. And it was awesome.
DMB is not what it/they used to be. One of the members died a year or so ago. Their music has gotten watered down by endless numbers of “pop” producers who seem intent on making made for radio music, which I hate (to be said in your best David Brent voice from BBC’s The Office). I am now convinced that the DMB which I knew and revered will never be back, never be the same, and is gone from the musical landscape forever. Everyday was just a hideous album (except for the title track) and Stand Up may have been even worse. Dave’s solo work was also pretty bad. That was it – I was done. This band was dead to me.
I listened to this new release with all of that baggage and attitude and here’s where I landed: it’s not bad. I know that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but after the debacle of the last few albums, it’s a huge improvement. From “utter garbage” to “moderately listenable” is, you have to admit, an impressive leap. It’s got some good songs on it, including a few that seem like a throwback to the olden days of DMB, when they were a college radio band and gigging in small clubs all over the country.
The album gets off to a good start – in fact, the three best songs on the album are within the first 5 tracks – but falls apart later. Toward the end, Alligator Pie is classic DMB with a Cajun-infused vibe, but everything else near the back sounds like it was recycled from earlier poppy DMB albums.
It’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend this album. It’s not great or life-changing in any way. But if you loved the old DMB and would like to hear something that at least resembles the old stuff, this is a decent place to start. Then, after it’s over, go take the live version of Ants Marching and blast it out of your car speakers.
Rating: 2 1/2 stars; What do you want? Ok, it doesn’t stink horribly. In fact, it’s not bad. But that’s the best I’ll give you.
Comparison: It’s DMB. They sound like just about everybody on any adult alternative station now. Think of a louder John Mayer.
Weight: Heavier than the last few DMB albums and Dave’s solo work; Mellower than Green Day.