April 28th, 2005
The Cavalier Daily
While fame has undeniable perks, it is inevitably accompanied by the pressure to live up to others' expectations. Critics demand innovation and fans demand consistency. As such, prominent musicians face a creative dilemma: In the search for greatness, their music must evolve in order to remain relevant, but evolve too much and the musicians risk obscurity and alienating their fans. To that end, the Dave Matthews Band's upcoming release, Stand Up, is an attempt to balance these competing interests, and one that, for the most part, actually succeeds in straddling the rival pressures of evolution and alienation.
I recently visited DMB manager Coran Capshaw's property in Crozet, Va. to listen to the album, which will be released nationwide May 10.
On the scenic ride to Capshaw's gorgeous renovated plantation home and offices, I wondered whether this album would be more suggestive of the poppy produced feel of Everyday, or if it would conversely return to the group's jam band roots, as evident on albums like Under the Table and Dreaming. I spent a glorious afternoon lounging around the basement of Capshaw's expansive pool house (read: bigger than most people's real homes), snacking on gourmet tortilla chips provided by the ingratiating, young, jean-clad assistants and listening to the album. After close consideration, I've concluded that Stand Up reflects both the poppy and rootsy strands of the band's music. And neither.
Like Everyday, the album noticeably contains pop and R&B influences. For instance, "Stolen Away" almost sounds like a rap song at the outset, and the drum track on "Old Dirt Hill" is reminiscent of a pop song at first. This phenomenon is likely due to the band's collaboration with producer Mark Batson, who has worked with artists including Dr. Dre and Beyoncé.
Nonetheless, to the delight of the band's diehard fans, while Stand Up is more heavily produced than some DMB albums, it is less so than Everyday, an album that some fans found a bit too radio-ready. Any pop elements tend to be mediated by the album's skilled layering of a variety of other, less traditional musical styles. Like Under the Table... and Before These Crowded Streets, Stand Up has a groovy, jamming feel to it. Like Crash, the album provides some quintessential songs for a good make-out mix.
At the same time, however, Stand Up is not a mere regression to the band's glory days. In many ways, the new record represents an evolution past Dave Matthews Band's previous work. The album incorporates a variety of new elements, from its use of piano on several songs (a first for the band) to its inclusion of a diverse array of musical styles, some of which are new territory for DMB, some of which the band has employed before (but certainly not all on one album).