After ten years of putting out a bunch of good, but not great albums, Dave Matthews Band ended the ’00 with their best album in a decade with Big Whiskey and the Groo-Grux King, an album so good, one critic said the album was a Dave Matthews Band album for people who do not like The Dave Matthews Band. After the great previous album, news only got better that Steve Lillywhite, who produced the band’s first three (and the aborted fourth that eventually turned into Busted Stuff without him) is back as producer for the first time in over a decade.
So expectations were high for the release of their eight studio album Away from the World. The only problem is the album turned out to be a bit of a bore. Sure the first single Mercy was a bit sleepy, but the band usually does not release the best song first (or usually at all). But it turned out the whole albums sounded as if the whole band was slipped an Ambient before recording started.
It does not help that one of the songs, Belly Belly Nice, sounds as if it were written by a Dave Matthews Band tribute band trying encapsulate the band’s essence and even throws in a nursery rhyme (Jack and Jill this time around) for good measure which is almost cringeworthy. The songs as a whole are the most unremarkable the band has ever written and is only kept out of the bottom of the band’s catalogue by the time they tried to cram their music into four minute pop songs.
Even though within five years I expect most of the songs from Away From the World will appear on as many setlists as the songs from Everyday, there are a few songs I cannot wait to hear live even if the studio version are uninspiring. Sweet (which does appear in live form, from here in Cleveland, on the Deluxe Edition of the album which finds Matthews at his falsetto best), with its ukulele intro that expands a couple minutes later into the full band, is the most simple song from the band since the haunting piano based Out of My Head. But Sweet has the exact opposite reaction for the listener and lives up to its title.
But it is Drunken Soldier that will be a highlight of many concerts to come and will probably end up being an encore staple. In true Dave Matthews Band fashion, the song is split into four sections, there is the ho-down beginning, which transitions into a more traditional beginning which I can see being stretched into five to ten minutes live which includes a beautiful solo from violist Boyd Tinsley, before transitioning into the most earnest lyrics by Dave on the whole album. The song ends with a segment that sounds like it is floating away on a lazy river in the moonlight. If I do not hear a twenty minute plus version of this song the next time I hear the boys live, I will be severely disappointed.
Song to Download - Drunken Soldier
Away from the World gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.