In the spring of 1995, the Dave Matthews Band vaulted into the national popular consciousness behind their major label debut album, Under the Table and Dreaming. I took to the album pretty fast and as the band was on its way up, I managed to see them open for Big Head Todd and the Monsters at the A.J. Palumbo Center. Before too long, they were playing Three Rivers Stadium, so I guess you could say I was into Dave Matthews before anybody else had heard of them. Then they got all big and popular and now they’re terrible.
Okay, did I play into the hipster narrative enough there? Well, I’m going to pick that whole paradigm apart just a little bit. First and foremost, I still like a fair chunk of Under the Table and Dreaming and its follow-up, Crash. In particular, I think the former is an album with few weak spots that I tend to underrate nowadays. But then there’s “Satellite”. On its own, it’s not particularly offensive and back in high school, I thought it was a sweet little song. But that’s the thing, sugary sweet songs like “Satellite” appeal especially to high school sensibilities. Nearly 20 years later, I kinda groan and roll my eyes when I hear it, before quickly moving along to the next track.
Crash went further in this direction, with the likes of “Crash Into Me”, “#41”, “Say Goodbye” and a few others. These types of saccharine-saturated tracks remind me of everything I hate about Coldplay, a band that my high-school-aged half-brother really likes “because they write lots of great love songs” (*sigh*). I’m not entirely sure how far DMB has gone in this direction since Crash, but I haven’t heard anything that’s made me want to follow Dave Matthews again, so perhaps the evolution is complete.
But like I say, Dave Matthews started out with plenty of upbeat tunes that changed my understanding of what directions a band could go in. They featured relatively interesting instrumentation; fiddles, horns, harmonicas… take these guys, move them to eastern Europe and they’re Gogol Bordello. Even though I don’t pull them out very often, tracks like “The Best of What’s Around”, “Ants Marching” and “Jimi Thing” still sound pretty good to me today. As it was, I think that these “alternative” lineups and a sound that didn’t really fit in with anything else that was going on at the time helped prepare me to take the leap into the indie rock world a few years later.
Typical Situation – The Dave Matthews Band