No band better sums up the late nineties better for me than the Dave Matthews Band to the point that I wrote a thesis paper that there was no higher concentration of hot chick in a given place than the Dave Matthews Band concert. I did theorize that the Playboy mansion may have been the only place with a higher concentration but unfortunately I still have yet tested out that hypnosis. Hot chicks aside, it was mostly about the music and that is why the band is the first to have multiple inductions into the Scooter Hall of Fame.
Where Under the Table and Dreaming had better collection songs, Before These Crowded Streets was a better complete album. Before These Crowded Streets also saw the band goes in a darker direction. Dave had always written some dark lyrics, but this album is when the band’s music when in darker directions. It is appropriate then that they dusted off Halloween from the Recently EP to include on the album as it still remains their darkest song with Dave just going off the deep end at the conclusion shouting “burial” and “Love Is Hell” over and over again. (I think, Dave seemed to want to keep the song ambiguous as the song’s lyrics are the only ones missing from the insert and the lyrics seem to change every time they play it live.)
Halloween then transitions into my personal favorite track off the album, The Stone. From the haunting intro that then goes into Boyd Tinsey’s frantic violin and then changes once again when the chorus hit, it moves into a sweet ode, that goes back the frantic beginning seamlessly when they get to the next verse. And as great as the song is on the album, you really haven’t truly heard the song until you have experienced live (check out Listener Supported if you are unable to see the band or if they end up not playing the song on your stop as they tend to end with an off-putting wall of strings that just come to a complete halt that isn’t found on the album).
You could tell early on that the band was going dark thanks to the headless Dave featured video for Don’t Drink the Water. The song is a sarcastic look through the eyes of early settlers as they displace Indians from their land which really hits its stride at the end when Alanis Morissette, who also shows up on Spoon with some more backing vocals, joins the band with a creepy harmony to Dave’s bridge.
That’s not to say Before These Crowded Streets is all doom and gloom. The album actually starts off with the sweet bouncing ode Rapunzel (well after Pantala Naga Pampa sets the mood nicely). The there is the perfect summertime song Stay (Wasting Time) that is a prerequisite for any block or pool party even a decade later. What also makes the album unique is that there is a half dozen or so thirty second jams throughout the album that just brings everything together which I wish the band would have continued to do for the rest of their albums.