DMB's "Away from the World" Avoids Being a Nostalgia Album: Recent Albums: a Music Review Column

Posted by Eli Cohen

As one of the first big-name albums out this fall season, "Away from the World" is the Dave Matthews Band's first studio album in three years. It also happens to be the first with producer Steve Lillywhite since the "Busted Stuff" and "Before These Crowded Street" days.

Consequently, "Away from the World"sounds distinctly like what audiences have come to expect from a DMB album. Alternately sweet, beautiful, angry and horny, the 45-year-old front man gives some of the best performances of his career in this new release.

The album is as beautiful as only the Dave Matthews Band can be--complicated, multi-layered arrangements flow seamlessly together to really illustrate how well Lillywhite compliments their sound.

Matthews sings about loves lost and found, and provides several condemnations of those who are socially and politically active in word alone, singing: "We gotta do much more than believe if we want to see the world change" in the song '"Gaucho". This sentiment is echoed in the album's first single, "Mercy", a beautiful ballad to the citizens of a world that bears a suspicious resemblance to John Hiatt's classic "Have A Little Faith In Me."

From there the album moves into "Sweet", a song that Matthews sings gently with his ukulele and some accompaniment from the rest of the band towards the end. "You know the feeling when you're in too deep," he all but whispers to the audience, before confessing that he's "too young to want to be younger now."

Those two sentiments as well as the song's name seem to mirror the themes of "Away from the World." It is stripped back, to the extent that Dave Matthews can ever be stripped down (this is a man whose solo album contained six players including Trey Anastasio, plus a brass band). It contains a sense of sweet melancholy, and while there is no chart-topper - no "Crash Into Me" or "Crush" or even a "Funny The Way It Is" - on this album, we are instead treated to a full album of very good, beautiful songs, none of which are particularly stronger or weaker than the rest.

The album ends with "Drunken Soldier", a nine and three-quarter minute five-part epic full of Dave Matthews wisdoms, such as, "Once 'round just once so take your shot/ Don't waste time trying to be something you're not," and some very laid back instrumental grooves.

However, the album does seem to be playing it a little safe. There are not many chances taken that Matthews has not taken before (even though the nine-minute song harkens back to "Proudest Monkey" from the "Crash"days).

In spite of this, the sheer talent of Matthews and his band of super-musicians makes this album a great one, simultaneously returning to his old sounds while maintaining a forward direction with the band. This manages to not sound like a nostalgia album, but contains all the things that made the early 2000's DMB so great. 

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