Tuesday, July 05, 2005

CD Review: Stand Up by Dave Matthews Band

I finally got my hands on this Dual Disc version of the album 3 weeks ago, after much searching throughout Singapore. And I found it in the Specialist Centre Gramophone, and this was the only copy!

HMV and Borders have recently stocked copies of the album, but it is the regular edition, not the Dual Disc version. So if you don't want to buy the wrong version, watch carefully for the "Dual Disc" label before you buy. I got this for $32.95, and I think HMV and Borders are selling the regular edition for about the same price too.

Digressions aside, it is time to review the album proper. DMB is my favourite band and I look forward to every new release, be it a studio album or a live album. For those not in the know, DMB consist of a rhythm acoustic guitarist (Dave Matthews), bassist (Stefan Lessard), drummer (Carter Beauford), violinist (Boyd Tinsley) and saxophonist cum wind player (Leroi Moore). It is a strange lineup no less.

The most amazing thing about DMB is that they sound as good live, if not better, as their studio recordings. And Carter Beauford is my favourite drummer of all time, with his super creative beats and fills.

So I had high expectations for Stand Up, as with every DMB release. It is their first studio album since Busted Stuff 3 years ago, which itself was a re-recording of their leaked Lillywhite Sessions album.

For this album, they worked with producer Mark Batson, who previously worked with India Arie, Eminem and 50 Cent among others. So it was not immediately obvious that Batson would be the right man for DMB, the genre of music being so different.

It is said that Batson took each member aside and worked with them individually, coming up with hooks and beats by themselves, instead of letting them jam together like the normal way. The new approach brought a new perspective to the band, and it was during one of these sessions that Tinsley came up with the main riff for first single, American Baby.

Working with Batson might have brought about a difference to DMB, and this album sounds rather different from the previous albums. For one, Carter Beauford exercises more restraint and keeps it simple for most of the songs, and he even uses computer beats for some of the tracks.

The first thing when I listen out for in a DMB album is the drums, naturally, so it was a little disappointing to find out that there aren't many new tricks by Beauford this time round. However, I can take comfort that he will improvise his way during the live performances, but to what degree, I don't know.

One of the standout tracks in this album is the aforementioned first single, American Baby. The violin riff is surprisingly simple and repetitive, and yet they can form a tune around it is nothing short of amazing. It is a slow burner, but it will grow on you for sure.

The highlight has to be the ending of the song for sure, where the sax and drums go on a rampage. Beauford is in full flight here, as he lashes out his impossible-to-play fills and beats, full of syncopation and perfectly executed. If only there were more of these.

There is even an intro to American Baby, which in truth, is a filler track. However, at 2 minutes long, they might not have wanted to insert it at the end of the previous track instead of listing it as a separate track, like they did for their Before These Crowded Streets album, which had several of these interlude tracks.

Another standout track is Everybody Wake Up (Our Finest Hour Arrives). After a violin and strings intro the distortion of the guitar comes in followed by the drums. Like American Baby, the gem here is at the ending, where the guitar and bass go into some weird rhythm while the drums and vocal retain the same rhythm. It's just some cool syncopation stuff.

Hello Again has a drum beat that is reminiscent of earlier hit Two Steps, with the same 16-beat snare rhythm. It is one of the more heavier rock songs here.

Stand Up (For It) is no doubt the funkiest song here, with its main backbone provided by Beauford again. The syncopated beat is matched by an equally syncopated bass line and rhythm guitar, and it is a showcase piece for the sax as well. This is one song that feels like it could have been from the previous albums.

The other songs however, are a little too mellow for my liking. Some are really quite pointless (Smooth Rider, Louisiana Bayou) while some are too un-DMB.

It is a departure for DMB, but not in the Everyday sense. Whereas that album was solely a Dave Matthews & Glen Ballard album, Stand Up sees every member of the band contributing in terms of songwriting, composition and even singing. It is an album that DMB wanted and needed to make, but it does not immediately go down well with old fans like me.

DMB is an amazing band with amazing musicians, and I hope that their live versions of these songs will be even better. While this might satisfy the casual listener, it does not rank among my Top 3 DMB albums.


Post a Comment

<< Home