`Everyday' by Dave Matthews Band


February 27, 2001

By Jim DeRogatis,


Hey, all you hardcore Dave-heads: If you haven't heard yet, your hero has made a matchbox twenty record.

Bummer! Or is it?

If the on-hiatus Phish retains the artistic edge in the post-Grateful Dead arena jam-band sweepstakes, the Dave Matthews Band is clearly the economic champ.

DMB (as fans affectionately call it) is the most efficient and lucrative touring machine that the music industry has produced in the last 15 years.

Last summer, it sold a staggering 170,000 tickets for two shows at Soldier Field, then returned a short time later to sell out a few gigs at the Allstate Arena. And every one of the band's albums has gone platinum-plus.

But the South African-born troubadour isn't satisfied with these accomplishments. Apparently, he covets the mainstream pop airwaves--over and above the considerable support he already gets from adult-rock radio. Now Matthews wants to go head-to-head with 'N Sync and Britney Spears.

Arriving in stores today, the band's fourth studio album, "Everyday" (RCA), serves as his means to this ambitious end. It's a leaner, meaner DMB record designed with the explicit purpose of grabbing pop's brass ring. As such, it's full of hummable lyrics, gentle grooves and pleasantly jazzy instrumental sounds. But then, so is a Christopher Cross disc.

DMB fans know that Matthews had crafted one album with his longtime bandmates and producer Steve Lillywhite, but then scrapped those sessions because they were just "more of the same."

Seeking to pull himself out of a mild depression and growing alcohol problem (all of it carefully detailed in the current Rolling Stone cover story), Matthews entered into a songwriting partnership with the middle-aged hack-pop tunesmith Glen Ballard, the man who bands like Aerosmith turn to when they're short on inspiration. (Ballard also co-wrote many of Alanis Morissette's songs of twentysomething female angst.)

Shock! Horror! On "Everyday," most of the songs average three minutes--this from a group that can play three songs in an hour onstage.

And there's barely a solo in evidence from endlessly wanky violinist Boyd Tinsley or windy sax man LeRoi Moore. Matthews also has traded in his famous jangling acoustic guitar in favor of a jangling electric guitar--as if there's much of a difference. (He's still no Jimmy Page.)

None of the aforementioned changes are bad per se. This famously flatulent group desperately needed to re-evaluate itself; losing the instrumental excess simply focuses the spotlight on Matthews' trademark gruff vocals and lilting, serpentine hooks. The result is DMB's best album, though the worth of that statement is relative--at its core, "Everyday" remains just empty, easy-listening Muzak, and certainly nothing to get overly excited about.

Ballard did little to improve the hyper-romantic Hallmark card banality of the band's lyrics. "I know I'll miss her later/Wish I could bend my love to hate her/Wish I could be her creator/To be the light in her eyes," Matthews warbles in "Sleep to Dream Her." It's the musical equivalent of "Sleepless in Seattle." Ugh.

Like Metallica when it shifted from thrashy speed metal to alternative radio-friendly ballads, the Dave Matthews Band is sure to alienate a circle of the hardcore faithful here, but it's a gamble the boss is willing to take. If the masses of Generation Y join their boomer parents in digging these innocuous Whole Foods-hippie ditties, Uncle Dave is poised to become the biggest act in America.

That might not be so bad. At this point, anything would be better than the Backstreet Boys.

Rating for "Everyday": **