In Brief: The DMB’s comeback after a six-year gap between albums may not be the most attention-grabbing entry in their discography, but there’s a subtle richness to a lot of the instrumentation that makes it easier to tolerate the usual bits of hedonism and outright nonsense that tend to crop up in the typical Dave Matthews lyric. The band is showing its age a bit at this point, but they also seem to be quite comfortable with that age.
What does it mean for a musician or a band to “age gracefully”? I’ve been pondering that question lately as I’ve been listening to Come Tomorrow the newest album by the Dave Matthews Band. It’s their tenth studio album overall (at least if I’m counting correctly), and their first in nearly six years, following 2012’s rather subdued release Away From the World. The band first made waves in the early to mid-1990s, and for a lot of fans (me included), that tends to be seen as their heyday, both critically and commercially. It’s been a long time. So when they put out something new, while as a longtime fan I’m always eager to check it out, I do tend to find myself wondering who it’s really for and what purpose it really serves that their previous material didn’t, or if it’s intended to do anything different than their usual in the first place.
I guess the band’s “usual” is a good place to start. Has the band’s style aged well? The amalgamation of jazz, progressive rock, and “jam band” influences that make up their signature style never really fit in with a lot of their contemporaries in the first place. It snagged them some radio play in the 90s and early 2000s simply because it seemed like anything “alternative” was fair game for a while there, even if it sounded nothing like the rest of the alt-rock burning up the charts back then. College students sure ate it up – I know that was when I first discovered them, though I didn’t do the deep dive into their discography until right after graduation. Young folks with plenty of disposable income seemed to be the group’s bread and butter, in terms of who had the kind of freedom from huge responsibilities required to follow them obsessively from one show to the next. They’ve always been notable as a live band, but as their mainstream exposure has diminished over the years while their style hasn’t made a ton of attempts to morph to modern trends, I kind of figure they’re not necessarily bringing in a ton of new fans. So their fanbase has mostly aged with them, I’m guessing. Do we even want the band to age in the first place, or to just keep doing the same old thing that made us love them in the first place? This is a band that could probably just tour forever and play all their golden oldies (especially since fans seem to love the rotating setlists, and the proliferation of old and obscure songs that tends to still make the cut for those), and never have to release new studio albums in order to keep that magic alive. For them to put out a new studio album at this point presumably means they had enough material that truly felt new to them, that they considered it important enough to share.
Has the band’s legendary musicianship aged well? I mean apart from the popularity (or lack thereof) of their chosen style, can these guys still play as adeptly as they could in their heyday? I can genuinely say there’s nothing to worry about there. Instrumentally, nobody in the band seems like they’re slowing down at all. Decades of on-stage practice probably means they’ve committed a lot of their more complex riffs and rhythms to muscle memory, and while their newer material typically isn’t designed to show off a ton of complexity (read: there’s not as much outright soloing and general wankery going on), there’s still a fair amount of intricacy bubbling beneath the surface even when the mood of a song is more relaxed. I’ve listened to some bands for long periods of time and wondered whether certain members’ physical capabilities have diminished over the years, causing the newer material to be written around those limitations. But I still have no doubt that Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds rank among the best guitarists of their generation, or that Carter Beauford is still one of the greatest drummers who ever drummed. Saxophonist Jeff Coffin, who replaced the late Leroi Moore in 2008, was already known as a proflific and accomplished musician in a few different genres before he joined the band full-time. And Rashawn Ross on trumpet and Stefan Lessard on bass still get a few chances to flex their muscles as well. Unlike several moments on Away From the World where I felt like these guys were kind of being taken for granted, Come Tomorrow feels like more of a full band effort a good 90% of the time. It’s not a particularly dense or artsy record, but it is a fun one to listen to, thanks to the kaleidoscope of colors these six men consistently pour into it.
Has Dave’s ability as a frontman and a vocalist age well? I’d say it’s a definite “maybe”. I’ve noticed more and more over the years that he’s sounded a bit creakier than normal even in some of the smoother, croonier songs that he attempts to perform. But there were moments when he sounded like that even on the band’s oldest material. Sometimes he’d go back and forth between that and the “yelpy schoolboy whose voice just barely started to drop” approach in a single song! The truth is that we’ve never listened to the DMB for vocal virtuosity. He’s a quirky voice that serves as a vehicle for the songs to be about something. Vocally speaking, a lot of his most irritating moments could be found on 2005’s Stand Up, and this record never gets anywhere near that abysmal. There’s really only one track here where I think Dave is either too old, too limited in his range, or just plain too clueless about how a soulful vocalist is supposed to get the job done, to pull off the kind of performance that the song seems to call for. Other than that… he’s just Dave. You know what you’re getting if you’ve heard nearly anything by the band before.
Has the songwriting aged well? This might be a tough one, because there are a lot of Dave Matthews songs that I love without really caring for (or, for that matter, sometimes even knowing) what they’re actually about. “If it feels good, do it” with a side order of occasional cries for world peace and harmony seems to have been his M.O. for most of his career, mixed with the occasional bit of darker brooding about whether there’s a God up there and whether he’s benevolent or malevolent. There are a few tracks on this new album where it feels like Dave is comfortable with his age, leaning into the perception that he’s the frontman of a “dad rock” band by writing songs that are specifically about watching his kids grow and about wanting to pass the torch to a new generation. But that all comes in between a lot of his more typical love song fare, which doesn’t tend to get much deeper than “I want you because I really love you, and I really love you because I just wants you so damn bad.” Horndog Dave doesn’t tend to age as well as socially conscious Dave or rambling, psuedo-wisdom-spouting Dave. With that said, old songs like “Crash into Me” and “Crush” now seem rather quaint in light of the sexually explicit content that proliferates in popular music today, so at the end of the day even “Horndog Dave” is pretty harmless.
Has the band’s overall image aged well? Here’s where I have to bring up the elephant in the room. You’ll notice that there’s one member I failed to mention when discussing everyone’s musical talents earlier, and that member is violinist Boyd Tinsley. For all intents and purposes, he’s no longer with the band. This basically came about as the result of a sexual harassment scandal involving a member of a younger band called Crystal Garden that Boyd had basically brought together and produced for – essentially a mentor/mentee type of relationship that went somewhere it shouldn’t have against a younger musician’s wishes (though Boyd denies the allegations). I can see why the DMB really had no choice but to distance itself from Boyd – these sorts of allegations are instantly toxic in the age of #MeToo. I’m not really sure to what extent this scandal has hurt the band’s image, or whether they’ve been able to salvage it by distancing themselves, but it does bring me a bit of discomfort when I think back on just how much of the band’s lyrics seem to promote the idea that if you want someone badly enough, there must be something genuine between the two of you. I could say that about any number of love songs in popular music, not just the Dave Matthews Band’s, so I’m not saying they’re an outlier in that sense. It just makes me wish they’d have been a tad more thoughtful when writing lyrics about relationships and sex on this record, and to be honest it might cast a bit of a shadow on even some of their classic material, now that I think about it. It’s not a major distraction, but I’m sure you’ll probably find some former fans who can’t get over the icky feelings this incident has given them about the band, and some others who may have a hard time forgiving them for dumping Boyd so unceremoniously. I personally think they made the right call. They’d been working on this record for so long that a bit of Boyd’s fiddling and plucking did make its way into a few songs, but I can’t say its ever really highlighted. You have to listen closely to pick up on it. I’ll miss his influence on their sound, and I find it interesting that unlike when Leroi died, they didn’t bring in another musician to fill his slot. The impact on their sound overall is perhaps mitigated by the fact that they didn’t seem to make very good use of Boyd on their last several records anyway. Regardless of how you view it, it’s a sad situation that reminds us that the “classic” DMB we once knew and loved is now down to just three original members. (And also three guys who had been playing with them for quite a while before officially joining, all of whom I respect a great deal – but still, it’s not quite the same.)
One might also question the band’s decision to not directly address the current climate of political and racial unrest in America (which I know from their political leanings overall that they can’t be happy with), especially considering how it left such a black mark on the band’s beloved hometown of Charlotesville, Virginia due to the ugly clash between protesters that happened there last summer. There are a couple moments where I almost feel like they’re going to say something about it, but it turns out to be very oblique and open to interpretation. It might be a case of an “elephant in the room” that they’re content not to bring up, in favor of simply showing their fans a good time and pointing toward a more idealized, peaceful future when a younger generation takes over. I’m not sure if I would want the DMB to be specific about these things, anyway, due to how Dave’s lyrics tend to be more stream-of-consciousness and surreal and sometimes a bit clumsy. It’s OK to be unintentionally goofy on a lighthearted love song or when nobody’s really sure what you’re on about. It’s less OK when you’re trying to stick up for the marginalized and disenfranchised. The band has typically been better about doing that sort of thing outside of their songs anyways, through various charities and activism events they’ve participated in. There may be some missed potential in their music in that sense, but I’m fine with it.
Ultimately, Come Together is a record that might not make the brightest of first impressions, but it’s an enjoyable listen if you can forgive the occasional musical, vocal, or lyrical missteps among its 14 songs. The singles released in advanced of the album may not tell the entire story – I actually think most of the really good stuff here is to be found among the deep cuts. At the same time, there’s no singular track that I can point to as an instant classic here, so this may not be a record where the highlights stand out to me as strongly a few years out as the ones on Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King or even Away from the World. It’s a good DMB record that gives us occasional glimpses of greatness without being an overtly obvious attempt to mimic their classic material. I’m not super excited about that, but I can respect it.
1. Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)
I recently re-read my review for Away From the World, and chuckled at my own assertion that “Belly Belly Nice” was the dumbest of all the Dave Matthews Band song titles. I have to say that this one easily dethrones it. That’s not to say that the lead single from this album is actually a dumb song. Quite the opposite, in fact – it’s the rare Dave Matthews song where I’m actually more drawn to the lyrics than the music. But the official title – which apparently came from an infamously awful B-movie called Samurai Cop that the band had on while jamming in the studio, giving this song a working title as they were figuring out what to do with it, I guess – has absolutely nothing to do with the song. The band’s certainly had working titles in the past that ended up sticking when they couldn’t think of a better title to use, such as “#41” on Crash, but they generally weren’t titles that led to false expectations of what the song would be about. “Samurai Cop” is the kind of title that leads to expectations of a song being over-the-top and silly. If the band’s intent was just to make kitschy nonsense, that would have been fine, even if the song itself never mentioned the titular action hero. But this is actually more of a down-to-earth song about the beauty of a newborn’s innocence and how fleeting that innocence is as a child begins to grow and experience pain and heartbreak. “Oh Joy Begin”, rather than being tacked on as a parenthetical title (no doubt to please a jumpy label who actually wanted the single to be recognizable by its name in some form), should have just been the official song title. It occurs at the end of most of the stanzas in each verse and again in the chorus, and it aptly sums up the mood and meaning of the song. I hate to be such a stickler about titles when you’d never notice or care about this if you just stumbled across the song on the radio or in a playlist when you weren’t actively looking at the titles. It’s a pleasant enough listen, nothing ridiculous about it. As lead singles go, it seemed to me like it fell into the same pedestrian rut as something like “Where Are You Going?” did on Busted Stuff. Dave’s repeating chord progression on the electric doesn’t really aim to do anything outside of the box, the other band members are all contributing tasteful but stubbornly well-mannered parts on their instruments (well, except for Carter, he’s actually putting a lot more oomph into this one than I initially realized), and it isn’t really until the bridge that an electric guitar solo from Tim Reynolds really lights things up. But this song has grown on me quite a bit over the last few months, as I’ve admitted to myself that part of my problem was simply a knee-jerk reaction to a stupid song title. Even though the lyric isn’t Dave’s most coherent, bits and pieces of it do manage to hit me right in the “feels” (as the kids say), due to being a parent of a young child myself. I’ll admit it, I’m a big softie now that I have a kid. Your own mileage will vary with this one. (Also, what’s with the sound of the British-style dial tone and the woman picking up and saying “Hello?” at the end of this one? It’s not a meaningful transition that adds any value to either of the tracks around it, and it only serves to make the segue awkward whenever I put this track on a playlist with some other band’s song right after it.)
2. Can’t Stop
This song follows the template of “stuff people who don’t like the Dave Matthews Band think every Dave Matthews Band song is about” a little too closely for comfort. The acoustic riff that runs throughout the song resembles a lot of his classic fingerwork, and along with Carter’s rat-a-tat drums, this sets the band up for a nice little workout that has the potential to really catch fire. Unfortunately it never does. We get our first visit from grumbly horndog Dave here, who almost seems to be breathlessly improvising the verses on the fly, with all sorts of awkward pauses and doubling back on the things he just sang as he tries to figure out whether he really wants to be with a certain woman, or she’s a horrible influence on him and she’ll end up eating him alive. There’s not much depth to it beyond his declaration in the chorus that “I’m like a junkie for you, baby.” I don’t feel like it ever really breaks out of the pattern that starts it off, leading a song that seems like harmless fun at first to become rather repetitive and grating by the time it’s over and Dave is rambling especially loudly about her freeing the beast inside of him and killing him just a little and so forth. This isn’t sexy. It’s not particularly fun to listen to. And it’s not dark enough to come across as a self-aware account of a destructive relationship. It’s just a dumb song about cheap sex. I’d have liked it a lot more as an instrumental… at least if it developed into something that gave more of the band room to show off.
3. Here On Out
I go back and forth on whether I think it’s clever for what seems like it’s going to be an extended code to “Can’t Stop” suddenly sputtering out and bleeding into the soft, ambient sax and keyboard notes that start off this song. For the most part, this is a “solo spotlight” sort of song that is mostly just Dave picking away on his acoustic guitar, like “Baby Blue” or “Belly Full” from the last two records. It’s pretty enough, but aside from a few modest background parts, there really isn’t much for the rest of the band to do here. There’s a string section here just to up the “romantic ballad” ante, and they actually stand out more than any of the other band members. Dave’s in sweet and sincere mode, promising his special lover he’s going to be with her from now until forever and crooning his way through a bit of heartfelt schoolboy poetry about how he’s completely and utterly fallen for her. It’s adorable, and it actually makes good use of the softer side of his voice. But the central conceit of the chorus – “Is it OK if I call you mine from here on out?” kind of undercuts the sweetness of it a bit, because while it’s cute that he’s asking for permission, I have to admit that I’m not big on love songs that use possessive language. You can say you belong to someone if you want, but calling them yours without reciprocating it by also saying you’re theirs just rubs me the wrong way. I’m sure it’s an innocent mistake, since Dave seems like the kind of guy who tends to put women on a pedestal rather than seeing himself as superior to them.
4. That Girl Is You
So, that comment I made earlier about the song that took an ill-advised vocal approach that Dave wasn’t soulful enough to pull off? Yep, that’s this one. I wanted to say he was too white for this, but there are plenty of soulful vocalists from a kaleidoscope of different cultural backgrounds who could probably make a song like this one work, so that’s not really the issue. The DMB is a multicultural band, and I’m sure that soul and R&B and funk and genres like that are important influences on them. And I really like the whole “acoustic funk” sort of approach the band has going on here, that picks up steam quite engagingly as they get deeper and deeper into the song. But GOOD GOD, Dave’s caterwauling here is a painful thing to behold. All of the scratchy and grumbly and downright grating aspects of his voice are on full display as he tries and utterly fails to sing the entire thing in falsetto, and it almost feels like he’s trying to riff on a melody line that he never actually bothered to compose in the first place. Like, you have to know where your base is before you can improvise on it, know what I mean? There are soul singers out there who can deviate from an expected melody line in odd ways, or that can wail to the point where they’re almost screaming, but for all of Dave’s grunting and straining here, it’s quite obvious that what he lacks is some genuine power in his lungs. It’s one thing for Dave to go for creepy, angry dissonance like he did on a track like “Halloween”. I’m fine with his vocals not sounding pleasant when they’re not intended to. But Dave Matthews is not, and has never been, a convincing crooner. I hate to make my entire review of the song just about the vocals, but the lyrics honestly aren’t giving me much to work with, aside from seeing a girl, thinking she’s hot, wanting to dance with her, and oh by the way, that’s you, dear listener. Unless, you know, you’re anyone other than the girl Dave actually wrote it about. Why he feels the need to switch to second person after singing about her in the third person for most of the verses is beyond me – as a lyrical conceit, it’s one that we could see right through even if the title didn’t give it away. Honestly, I hate this song more than anything I’ve hated from this band since oh, roughly about half of Stand Up. They had the audacity to release this awful song as the second single from the album, so you can imagine why I was feeling rather apprehensive about actually listening to Come Together when it finally dropped. Fortunately this is the trough of their bad ideas on this record, so it’s mostly uphill from here.
The idea of a woman having some sort of bewitching power over Dave is not a new one by any means – I feel like a lot of his songs are more or less about this. But as songs in that vein go, this one fares a lot better than “Can’t Stop”. The more muscular guitar riffs and the off-kilter rhythm certainly help – the band digs into a pretty thick and dark groove here and just doesn’t let go, the horns are more assertive, and after all of the times I’ve expressed ambivalence toward Dave’s skills on the electric as opposed to the acoustic, he legitimately makes a case for the DMB’s ability to function as a rock band here. You probably won’t be headbanging and flashing the devil horns or anything, but it’ll at least rattle your speakers a bit. What I like here is that the rhythm is non-standard, but not in the typical way the DMB usually accomplishes this – it seems like there are a few extra bars hanging off of each measure, and my brain intuitively knows the pattern even if I haven’t actually sat down and counted out the time signature yet. The chorus resolves to more of a user-friendly 4/4, in which Dave somehow manages to sound halfway believable despite the ridiculous lyrics: “There ain’t no God or man could kill the burning fire/She is born in the middle of my soul/If you wait too long to taste, the juju is gone/The lights are off You have run out of time.” He really shouldn’t have gotten away with dropping the word “juju” into a song, but because he’s being all weird and cautionary about it, it actually works, in a “wise but crazy old man” sort of way.
6. Idea of You
This is one of those songs where you can immediately tell it was worked out over long stretches of trial and error in front of a live audience. Shoot, they even mislead us with a bit of crowd noise at the beginning, almost as if they wanted to scare people like me who sometimes download music before I buy the album into thinking I’d ended up with a live bootleg version. But it pretty quickly resolves to a pristine studio arrangement once it’s done fading in, and I have no idea why the decided to do this other than to be like, “Isn’t it great how much our fans still love us?” It feels like pandering and it’s kind of dumb. Other than that, this song is pretty brilliantly arranged, from the tricky acoustic runs and the brightly colored melody that weaves throughout its verses, almost as if it’s trying to be the musical equivalent of excited shivers going up a person’s spine. (I believe this is one of the moments where I can hear a little bit of Boyd’s violin plucking in the background. Which makes sense, if they were working on it while he was still touring with them.) When it reaches the chorus, it’s one of the most full-throttle and melodically satisfying things I’ve heard from the DMB in a long time – the sax and trumpet are all in, Carter’s hammering away as the song’s building momentum finally reaches it’s payoff… it’s a moment of musical ecstasy. And I’d be so tempted to view this one as a potential new classic from the band… but there are a few really big potholes that it ends up falling into. First, the chorus is marred by Dave’s awkward pronunciation of the title as “Idear of You”, and his apparent confusion between wanting to be with someone he’s fallen for and telling her: “Wanna stay, but I think I’m getting outta here”. I’m not exactly convinced that you’re all in there, Dave. There’s also an unfortunate bit about a king making a woman his queen in the backseat of a car. But the worst part is that the song is about liking a girl so much that he’s not gonna pull her hair and kick her in her shins. Look, maybe when we were all kids, it was cute to hear stories about little boys who couldn’t properly process their attraction to little girls they liked, so they’d pick on them in order to mask their true feelings. But it’s 2018, and we’re all on full alert where both bullying and sexual assault are concerned, so this is the exact opposite of adorable now. Is that really the angle you want to go with, Dave? He plays it like he’s somehow doing the girl a favor by not doing these obnoxious things to her. No, Dave, that’s just normal everyday decorum that should be expected of every little boy, regardless of how he feels about a girl.
7. Virginia in the Rain
Long songs are nothing new to the Dave Matthews Band, but there’s something about the band’s restraint on this one that seems unique. It’s not like one of the songs on Away with the World that opened up in such a soft, brooding manner that I found myself wondering when it was really gonna get going. This one makes it clear right away that it’s going to be more of a mood piece throughout, and yet there’s a lot of fluid motion in the light drums, bass, and keyboards, and a bit of hazy electric guitar ambiance here and there, all gently swirling around as if the band were depicting Dave in a dream state while he reminisces about being kids and swimming in the river and uh… running around naked in the rain and stuff. In essence, it’s another song about childhood innocence, with the state of Virginia, a state that the band dearly loves even if I can’t recall them mentioning it by name in a song until now, as the scenic backdrop. I’m fully on board with the idea of it, even though it’s kind of weird to hear them being specific about the place without having any moments on this album where they’re specific about more recent events in Virginia. I won’t hold that critique of the album in general against this specific song, though. It’s beautiful because it knows how to hold back and maintain the tension. It’s obviously not one of the catchier songs on the album for that reason, but it’s way more interesting to me as a deep cut than a mostly solo performance with just Dave and a guitar, or a middle-of-the-road, radio-friendly ballad.
8. Again and Again
If there’s one original member of the DMB who I’ve never really singled out and raved about his talents, it’s probably Stefan Lessard. I mean, bassists tend to get overlooked in general, but I can’t think of a ton of DMB songs that really highlight his talents, aside from the intro to “Crush” or a few other brief moments throughout their discography. But he’s the strong backbone of this song. It helps that it’s got a really sexy electric bent to it, with Tim and Dave both on electric once again and Carter keeping the beat bouncing along nicely in 6/8 time. It’s got a pretty simplistic lyric about wanting to reciprocate all the love that a woman’s given to Dave (one who he refers to as “mama”, which is a weird thing to call a romantic lover, though he’s hardly the first to do so), but I love the way that the melody sways up and down and the chord progression has just the right amount of dark, minor-key stuff going on to add a bit of class to an otherwise giddy and happy love song. Musically speaking, this is my favorite thing on the album. Is it a modern DMB classic? I mean, not really. It’s so darn close, but every time I think about it, I have to admit to myself that while the sentiment expressed in the lyrics is nice, it’s really nothing special, and certainly nothing that Dave hasn’t wowed me with in a far more verbose manner in the past (see once again: “Crush”).
Now there’s an interesting song title. Can’t wait to find out what this one’s about… Oh, it’s about nothing. I mean that literally this time – it’s not just that I think the lyrics are fluff. There are no lyrics. It’s roughly 30 seconds of an upbeat jam with some scat vocals. It’s great fun, and I get that the whole joke is how they get something like this started, leading you to expect it to develop into an actual song, only for it to abruptly end. But when it ends, I’m actually kinda pissed that they didn’t do more with it. Most of this album is mid-tempo – it would have been nice to have a real barn-burner in the back half of the album to wake us up, you know?
10. Black and Blue Bird
This song is at once relaxing and downright baffling. Dave’s acoustic fingerpicking is certainly something to behold, giving an otherwise easygoing song a nice little dose of intriacy due to how he cycles through the chords and seems to add a few extra bars to a few of them. This is another one of those songs where figuring out the time signature is pretty difficult for me, yet I recognize the overall pattern and really enjoy it, and I think the transitions between that and the more straightforward interludes in 6/8 flow really nicely. While acoustic guitar and piano seem to be the primary instruments here, there’s room for a modest little sax solo and some other instrumental flourishes, and I actually think this might be one of the best examples of how the DMB quietly flexes their muscles without overtly showing off on this record. The lyrics are a doozy here… I don’t mean that in a bad way; I just haven’t connected all the dots between Dave’s musings about the vastness of the universe, mankind having evolved from creatures that once crawled in the mud, and modern-day problems such as religious fanaticism and fake news. “I read the paper, make me crazy” is about as specific as this album ever gets about current events, and I honestly can’t tell if this song is trying to be political, or philosophical, or both, or neither. It’s probably just another one of Dave’s weird, abstract streams of consciousness, but given that, I’m surprised that the band was able to make something so coherent and exquisitely crafted from it without rounding out the deliberately lopsided shape of it. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to mean when the final verse begins to repeat the first verse, only to end abruptly with the sound of police sirens blaring in the background. But that’s far from being the first thing I’m confused about on this album.
11. Come On Come On
Normally at this point in a DMB album, I’d be really tired of all the easygoing, mid-tempo material. There’s something about this song that, despite it being yet another starry-eyed love song that is borderline incoherent in the lyrics department, still makes it stand out with a lot more confidence than a deep cut like this otherwise would. The strong acoustic strumming really sets the tone for the song, serving as more of a solid hook to make it stand out to the listener than the actual chorus does. (I think there’s a violin backing it as well. Could be Boyd or it could be a hired gun string section. It’s kinda hard to tell.) I really enjoy listening to this one, just for the general mood of it, but reading the lyrics out loud just makes it look like Dave is lazily pasting lovey-dovey sentiments together without even making sure they form complete sentences. The actual chorus of the song goes as follows: “Because of you, girl/Beautiful, beautiful girl/Take it easy on yourself/Take it easy on me/’Cause I just wanna make you/I just wanna make you/Come on, come on/Come on, come.” Wow, this is like the love song equivalent of a Trump speech. So first of all… because of you, what? What’s happening that you caused to happen? And what does he wanna make you come on and do? Unless he’s just using a bit of wordplay to tell you he wants to make you… nope. Not gonna do it. Gotta take the high road with this one.
12. Do You Remember
This song is basically the “Stay (Wasting Time)” of this album. I won’t say it’s nearly as exuberant as that classic DMB song, but it’s got a similar sense of summery nostalgia to it – perhaps it’s more of a gentle shimmy whereas “Stay” was a full-on dance. I love the start/stop riffing of the acoustic guitar as Dave plucks out the chord progression, with little accents coming from the sax and trumpet here and there. A lot of the lyrics are simply about kids playing make-believe, pretending they’re pirates and ghost hunters and whatnot, and it fits in with the whole “longing to return to innocent days” vibe that a lot of this album seems to be going for. (Also another bit about “kissing girls in the backseat”. I’m genuinely not sure how old the kids in this song are supposed to be, which is mildly bothersome.) There’s a neat little vamp near the end where the chord sequence suddenly seems to turn to minor key for a little bit, though it’s soon followed by that weird vocal thing Dave sometimes does where you’re not quite sure if he’s singing or hiccuping. All pretty standard ingredients that have to occur at least once on a DMB album, I suppose.
13. Come Tomorrow
The album’s celebration of children culminates in the title track, which is another blend of a strong rhythmic backbone (this time more of a snare-filled march from Carter) and confident acoustic strumming. Brandi Carlile shows up to sing a few backing vocals, though she’s really there just for a little flavor and not so much as a featured guest. Musically, this one’s not quite as interesting as the last few tracks, but it’s definitely the most socially conscious track on the album, so that gets my attention even if the more “anthemic” aspects of this song took a few listens to really leave their mark on me. Here Dave is pointing out that as people get more old and bitter, their worldview tends to be shaped by fear and resentment, while young folks tend to be more optimistic and open-minded. He doesn’t disparage the old people – the world needs saving and that curmudgeonly old guy needs saving too. Nobody gets left behind. But he makes it pretty clear that he thinks we should “Let the children lead the way”. The subtext here is that younger folks tend to lean more progressive, which is of course more in line with Dave’s own views – the rather awkward couplet “Bang bang, you’re dead, nah you missed me for real/I got a bag to smoke, come on let’s make a deal” makes his opinion of how world peace should be attained bluntly obvious (pun intended) in the second verse. Despite the simplistic drilling down of complex political issues into catchy statements likely to get loud cheers from a live audience, I do believe in the overall sentiment of this song. Even among progressive, there seems to be this debate of whether the old guard is really getting the job done or whether some new blood is needed to really get people excited again. And that’s not to say that this is only a song about getting out there and voting or even running for office – there are a myriad of ways that young people can and should challenge the status quo, and I think that’s what Dave’s trying to communicate here. He’s getting older now and sees himself as more of a supporting player rather than someone leading the charge, and I think some have misinterpreted this as saying that he’s going to sign off and stop caring. But I see this song as being about wanting to empower others, rather than being about giving up the fight and letting someone else worry about it. I guess there’s a lot of room for interpretation here since Dave tends to be more esoteric and pie-in-the-sky than practical and down-to-earth with most of his lyrics. But as someone who often wonders what the world will be like when my own kid is old enough to vote, or what sorts of social change her generation will help to shape that we middle-aged folks who will be the old folks by then probably can’t even conceive of. This song at least gives me back a glimmer of optimism about what that future could be like.
14. When I’m Weary
Even though I’ve had my criticisms of several of these tracks, I will say that from “She” up through to the title track has been a remarkably solid run, in terms of the band’s performance. The title track slowly fading out really would have been a nice way to end the album, but for some reason Dave felt the need to tack on a two-minute piano ballad, perhaps the sort of thing that might have been a hidden track back in the day, as a sort of epilogue to the record. It’s pretty boring. When I first heard Dave do something like this on… whichever one of the tracks on Stand Up that was based around piano, I can’t even remember at this point because it was so dull… I was ambivalent. I still am. It’s less intrusive at the end of the album than it would have been at the center, I guess. But there’s nothing here to tie this song to the rest of the album, musically speaking, and beyond the vague sense of someone giving him enough comfort and encouragement to keep going through hard times, I can’t really see how this relates to the rest of the album. I guess he’s just trying to find the courage to hang in there until optimism wins out and today’s kids are tomorrow’s leaders, making far better choices than our current ones. That’s the most charitable thing I can assume here. It’s still not the kind of song I really listen to the Dave Matthews Band for.
WHAT’S IT WORTH TO ME?
Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin) $1.25
Can’t Stop $.25
Here On Out $.75
That Girl Is You –$.50
Idea of You $1
Virginia in the Rain $1.25
Again and Again $1.25
Black and Blue Bird $1.25
Come On Come On $1
Do You Remember $1
Come Tomorrow $1
When I’m Weary $0
Dave Matthews: Lead vocals, guitars, ukulele, piano
Carter Beauford: Drums, percussion, backing vocals
Stefan Lessard: Bass, Rhodes piano
Jeff Coffin: Saxophone, flute
Tim Reynolds: Electric guitar
Rashawn Ross: Trumpet, backing vocals
LISTEN FOR YOURSELF: