Dave Matthews Band album cover for Away From The World
The Dave Matthews Band are one of the few acts still around from the 1990s that can deliver a faithfully consistent album to large crowds of buyers as judging by their opening-week sales of over 250k, enough for the band’s 6th #1 album in a row on the Billboard 200. Dave Matthews Band have maintained a huge following thanks to the modern day hippie, or someone who calls themselves a Dave Matthews fan, which I will argue is different from the hipster. A hipster would never set foot near a town that hosts, has hosted, or will host a DMB concert…ever. The collective of hippies that stay true to the DMB has made them one of the most successful touring acts in the last decade and a half and has kept them recording.
You’ve got a good thing going when you own your own style or genre of music. You no longer have to keep up with the trends of popular music, rather you just have to outdo or, at the very least, maintain your previous level. The blend of rock, jazz, blues, funk and world music has made their sound as distinctive as it is lush with full-on instrumentation that, at the worst of times, is still a treat to the ears. The instrumental break that finishes off the song Mercy is one of several instances on the record where Dave steps back from the mic and lets the music say what words cannot. The combination of percussion, violin, guitar and wind instruments has become the signature of a good DMB song.
Away From The World is much more mellow record than their last record Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King, which offered a mix of lighter fare and some of the rockiest songs ever recorded by the band. On this record, the closest they come to a rock song comes with Rooftop, reminiscent of the sound of What Would You Say, but still with a lower tempo. The record as a whole is more Crash Into Me than I Did It, with its complete spectrum of sounds to cover all bases rather than shallowly focusing on one area in particular like the band’s later music have. That’s thanks in part to their return to producer Steve Lillywhite, who produced the band’s first three records. The range goes from the soft romantic lullaby of Belly Full to the upbeat whole-band sound of Belly Belly Nice, where only Dave can recite lines from the nursery rhyme Jack & Jill and make them sound dirty. The closing song Drunken Soldier takes into account the whole album in one nearly-ten-minute track as it nicely wraps up the theme of the record, both musically and lyrically. “Don’t let any fools make you something you’re not/Fill up your head/Fill up your heart/’Cause that’s all we got.”
Away From The World serves well as an album where instrumentation can and should be appreciated because it is what makes the Dave Matthews Band stand apart from anyone else but the album itself might wind up being more of a sound filler than one that stands out. While not necessarily a step down from Big Whiskey, Away From The World doesn’t offer the wide variety of styles that they have been known to deliver on one album but rather serves as a dreamy adventure through the mind of Dave Matthews.
1. Broken Things
2. Belly Belly Nice
6. The Riff
7. Belly Full
8. If Only
10. Snow Outside
11. Drunken Soldier