June 1998
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Music review--Dave Matthews Band -- Before These Crowded Streets

By Jessica Brandt

This is a big album. I mean, a big album. If you have surround-sound speakers, be careful! Matthews and Co. pull out all the stops for their third major release, Before These Crowded Streets, calling in guest musicians as well as letting their own musical prowess shine.

Each track pulses and pumps, with Matthews growling, laughing, and crooning over the full instrumental tracks. Buddy Tim Reynolds fills in on guitar as well as mandolin, Bela Fleck does what he does best by playing banjo on a few tracks, and even Alanis Morissette gets in on the act by singing backup vocals on two songs. The 70 minute album encompasses 11 tracks, and if you do the math, that's at least 6 minutes for every song. This gives Matthews and the rest of the talented musicians a change to jam out every song, like "The Last Stop," which starts with a middle-eastern feel, and then goes into a frenzy, only to be overruled by Reynold's sweet mandolin to end it all.

The album, like Crash, has it's share of love songs and political messages. "Stay" is a goofy little lovesong, in true Matthews fashion-- just havin' fun and being in love. "Crush," like "Crash..." is very heartfelt and romantic. This time through, however, Matthews lets the bruised devil inside him come out on "Halloween" to basically tell off the woman who thrice refused to marry him (was she nuts??). "Love is hell" he screams. However, I think he's over it now.

The first single off the album, "Don't Drink the Water," is a powerful song about the Europeans' treatment of Native Americans when they wiped them out of America. The song ends with a duet between Alanis Morisette's shreiking/singing and Matthew's growling. "The Dreaming Tree" is a knock on the evils of progress, presented in a soft narritive style.

The Dave Matthews Band gets better with every album. Whether it's a small acoustic set or a huge production, the band continues to be tight and able to translate raw emotion into beautiful and powerful music. Before These Crowded Streets isn't as radio-ready as the other albums, because of the lengths of the songs and the large sound which does not give it any pop appeal. However, DMB will continue to be popular with many different kinds of fans-- from top 40ers to "hippies" to folk rock fans. This will not be the last we've heard of Matthews; I believe he has made a dent in the music world by producing high quality, intelligent music which will continue to make him a staple in the history of rock and roll.

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