Start with a guitar. Add a violin, saxophone, drums and bass. Then, a left-of-center voice, tons of passion and original lyrics. Sprinkle in diversified textures in sound. What do you get? The Dave Matthews Band.
On the Dave Matthews Band’s second studio album, “Crash,” released April 30, 1996, diversified rhythms and melodies make the eclectic band stand out from other mainstream rock artists.
“Crash” was produced by Steve Lillywhite under the RCA label, and won a Grammy in 1997 for “So Much To Say” for the best rock vocal performance by a duo or group. It was also nominated that year for best rock album, but lost to Sheryl Crow.
South African native Dave Matthews sings lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar with Boyd Tinsley on mandolin and violin. Stefan Lessard, who was only 16 years old when he joined the band, plays bass. Carter Beauford plays percussion, and the late LeRoi Moore plays woodwinds. Dave’s old friend Tim Reynolds hops on for “Crash” playing electric guitar.
Grammy winner and opening song, “So Much to Say,” starts off simplistically with the acoustic guitar, and Matthews singing. It leads into a dynamic groove with prominent percussion, baritone sax and bass. From the get-go, DMB shows off their unique rock sound with enthusiasm.
“Two Step” opens with hopping, staccato strings and soft, haunting voices and rambles into a fast, powerful rhythm. The dark melody turns light with the lyrics, “Celebrate we will, cause life is short but sweet for certain,” a popular DMB lyric. Tinsley’s mandolin playing is highlighted while Beauford’s drums keep a consistent, fast pace. The band flows freely during the chorus and breaks off into light-heartedness and back into a darker melody throughout the song.
“Crash Into Me” is perhaps one of the most recognizable Dave Matthews Band songs, and is their most successful single. The charming ballad contains lyrics that stand out most on top of a sweet acoustic melody and soft drums. Moore’s sax provides a foundation for the melody. Sexually, Matthews sings he is “bareboned and crazy” for his lover. Matthews’ voice could make many a woman swoon in “Crash Into Me”; alluring, seductive and sweet.
Matthews’ voice rides over electric guitar, with breaks of Moore punctuating with woodwind in “Too Much.” Under the chorus, brass builds behind Matthews’ voice, almost agreeing with him, “I eat too much, and I drink too much, I want too much, too much.” Tinsley takes over on violin, keeping up the energy, while passing it back to Matthews. The instrumentals emulate Matthews’ voice, rising and falling in intensity and skipping around on the musical scale with playfulness and intensity.
The track “#41” was named because it was the 41st song Matthews wrote. Matthews has often named songs in order by which they were written. Other numbered songs are “#34,” “#36,” “#40” and “#27,” which is a rare treat to hear on tour, but is not found on any mainstream recordings. Beauford on drums kicks off the rhythm softly, adding in guitar, sax, bass and developing into a steady melody behind Matthews’ safe, romantic voice. With such lyrics as, “I will go in this way, and find my own way out,” “I’m only this far, and only tomorrow leads my way” and “Why won’t you run into the rain and play, and let tears splash all over you,” the instrumentals aren’t the only thing the listener takes away.
Without a solid break in between the “#41” and “Say Goodbye,” Moore connects the two songs by a flirty woodwind riff with Beauford accompanying him on the bongos. With a romantic lead, “Say Goodbye” is perhaps the most beautiful song about cheating on a lover as it gets. The song diversifies into an afro-beat and drips with sensual lyrics. Until Matthews sings, “Go back to being friends, but tonight let’s be lovers,” one would think the song is about two who are in a relationship. The electric guitar creeps in later in the song where it builds, Matthews pleading, “Just for tonight, one night,” and calming down, pleading, “tomorrow say goodbye.”
Reynolds and his electric guitar establish “Drive In, Drive Out,” when drums are added to increase intensity. “Drive In, Drive Out” is more fast-paced, breaking away from the soft ballads of the past songs. “Drive In, Drive Out” thrusts into a powerful, dynamic chorus and slides back into a softer, pent-up energetic tone for the verses.
“Crash” falls back into a softer melody with “Let You Down,” Matthews’ voice a little more tame and controlled, sounding sad. Percussion and acoustic guitar underlie the piece, almost bringing back a tropicalia sound from “Say Goodbye.” “I have no lid upon my head, but if I did, you could look inside and see what’s on my mind,” expresses Matthews’ mea culpa. The sax seems to cry along with Matthews.
On the next song, “Lie in Our Graves,” the acoustic guitar plays a simple, catchy riff. “Would you not like to be, sitting on top of the world with your legs hanging free?,” Matthews sings with a carefree sound. With light-hearted, Carpe Diem lyrics, (“I can’t believe that we would lie in our graves, wondering if we had spent our living days well,”) the boys go into their signature jam where each instrument and musician takes over and shines in their own jam.
Abandoning the diverse melodies, DMB settles for a more lyric-driven piece in “Cry Freedom.” “The future is not the place to place your better days,” Matthews sings on top of echoing electric guitar. DMB loses some energy while trailing along with the lyrics and lacks sincerity and depth in its sound.
“Tripping Billies” grabs the listener back with a vibrant lead. Tropicalia percussion, violin, woodwind and guitar all contribute to the dynamic start and the song trickles into a feel-good melody behind Matthews singing about a good time with friends. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we’ll die,” is the backbone of “Tripping Billies” and leaves the listener dancing to a unique, fun rhythm. The Dave Matthews Band’s signature fire dancer symbol was taken from “Tripping Billies,” specifically when Matthews sings, “My yellow flame, she dances.”
“Crash’s” final song, “Proudest Monkey,” begins with the stylistics of the acoustic guitar among a tropic percussion sound. The lyrics in “Proudest Monkey” emulate the notion of always wanting to be greater than you are; the monkey leaves the jungle for the city, in search of something better, and finds himself wanting back the life he had. The sax sounds beautifully animalistic, pairing perfectly with the theme of “Proudest Monkey.” The melody continues to flow like swinging from vine to vine in the jungle. Whistles blowing sound melodic, but emulate the city to which the monkey migrated. Matthews rambles in the background and lets percussion and woodwind take over, letting go of control while still sounding in-control.
“Crash” established Dave Matthews Band as one of the more prominent rock jam bands of the 1990s and gave them many favorable songs to play perennially on tour. “Crash” allowed the musicians of DMB to establish themselves as heavyweights in the rock genre, and has been a foundation for their continued success.
Contact CU Independent Copy Editor Taylor Coughlin at Taylor.email@example.com.