Dave Mathews: Everyday

The first time I heard Everyday, I thought it was terrible, a train wreck of Led Zeppelin, fusion, and grunge. The material seemed contrived, formless, and prickly. And then I kept listening, adapted to it, and rather grew to like it.

Everyday is a thorny album that's unlike anything else by the Dave Matthews Band. Matthews himself is upfront on electric guitar. Violinist Boyd Tinsley and hornman Leroi Moore solo less, having been subsumed into the overall texture of the music, with bassist Stefan Lessard and drummer Carter Beauford the driving force behind the angular attack. And the producer here, Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette et al.), has an expanded creative role that may raise some eyebrows in DMB land: He co-wrote all 12 songs with Matthews and plays keyboards throughout the album. Everyday is a jagged little pill indeed.

"I Did It" boldly announces that this is not your older brother's jam band. The instruments percolate madly, tempos change from section to section, and Matthews spews his vocals in a rock-star mock-falsetto one minute and in an urgent, chattery rap the next. Just listen to the way he parses the line "I never did a single thing, did a single thing, to change the ugly ways of the world." Dave Matthews as the new funk/soul brother? Better get used to it, 'cause the shoe fits - and he's serious.

In the lyrics, Matthews seems to be reckoning with the state of the world (it's falling apart) and the antidotes (love, courage, conviction). In "When the World Ends," a smoldering quasi-rap with colliding tempos, he imagines love in the ruins. "Dreams of Our Fathers," powered by a flinty guitar riff that is juiced along by the rhythm section's controlled fury, finds Matthews fast-talking his way through and beyond questions posed by history, concluding: "It's such a waste, child, to live and die for the dreams of our fathers." He returns to the subject in "Mother Father," a sad, lovely tune about our blood-wracked world ("a place so bitter and still so sweet") with a beseeching Latin lilt courtesy of guest guitarist Carlos Santana.

Yet despite everything, Matthews closes the album with the uplifting title track, announcing, "I'll take my chances on everyday." In his audacious willingness to push his art one difficult step further, he demonstrates the uncompromising tenacity that will be necessary if we are to right the wrongs he frets about.


(Originally published in: Sound & Vision, May 2001)