Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Before These Crappy Discs: What Happened to DMB?

Since they pooped out the deplorable single "I Did It," an open admission to Dave Matthews Band fandom has elicited a huff or eye roll from any 'credible' music fan. Sad that this and subsequent efforts (not all of them so abysmal) have soiled the DMB name.

Well I feel no guilt considering myself a Dave fan. He's released what are by most accounts considered three brilliant records before inexplicably (or perhaps explicably...see below) tapering off into just another pop radio stalwart churning out increasingly less exciting material.

But this begs the question: Why did this happen? It seemed so...so sudden. Sure, Busted Stuff was OK (initially recorded pre-Everyday if I recall) and there were a few--a few--bright spots on Everyday...but besides that, it's been just mind boggling.

I decided to compile a list of ten (largely but not exclusively satirical) reasons why DMB became a once great band.

1. Steve Lillywhite left.

Some bands are inevitably linked with a particular producer. The Beatles-->George Martin, for instance. And prior to 2000, DMB worked with Steve Lillywhite, a producer who sifted through the band's instrument-heavy tunes and expertly arranging every note, every harmony, every lyric so that nothing is lost but the musical environment is perfectly decorated by each melody or rhythm. Steve produced Dave's first three albums. Don't know why he left, but the band never sounded quite the same to my ears.

2. Fame

Not much explanation here...Dave went the way of so many acts, broke big and started to churn out the same old stuff that the radio loves. American Baby? Are you kidding me? What a piece of poo. It's the same story with the Goo Goo Dolls, The Chili Peppers to a degree, and to be sure countless others.

3. Stopped Caring Live

Dave said it in his own song: "Remember when I used to play for all of the loneliness nobody notices now." Would loved to have seen DMB play in a mid sized venue...but now it's all outdoor ampitheaters and arenas named after Fortune 500 companies. I saw him in 2004 and it was boring as hell. The band mechanically zipped through each song, and Dave never stopped to say a word beyond "Thank you very much" during song breaks. That was about it. I'd always heard a Dave show was supposed to be one of the jewels in the modern rock crown. But alas, it was just a night that I'd rather have stayed home.

4. Recognized the Demographic

DMB went from a niche band--stoners, hippies, etc.--to the fratboy's delight, a massive marketing machine whose theme songs blast from the open tailgate of every Forerunner at the boat landing. So Dave could stare at a blank wall for the next five years and probably make more money than Jesus. Why exert the extra effort making music that matters? His fame has earned him that right--not saying it's something he should do, or does do (just speculating here folks), but he knows damn well who his fans are now. The standards are just lower among them.

5. Dave Dance Recession

Remember that stupid dance Dave did? Where shuffled his feet while he played? Well I hardly ever see him doing that anymore. Perhaps he's not so limber as he once was, but it seems that there's a positive correlation between Dave-dancing and quality of music. Or maybe I just don't ever watch Dave anymore so I have no fucking clue if he's dancing. Either way, that shuffle was pretty cool.

6. I Never Bought the New Album

Stand Up, was it? Never bought it. I heard a few songs from it and all were pretty awful. Not worth my pennies.

7. Dave's Acting Career Took Off

Cleary his role in that Winn Dixie movie adjusted his sites from the recording to the silver screen. Didn't he play a retarded guy or something? Perhaps Dave is going the way of Mark Whalberg and--uh--Joey Fatone and abandoning the music world altogether for greener pastures.

8. The Poop Incident

A few years back, the Dave Matthews Band released a putrid, massive collection of foul excretion unto the world. And while they were touring for that album, their bus driver of violinist Boyd Tinsley's tour bus wanted to get things back to the way the were before their crowded septic tank. So he emptied the thing out. Unfortunately, it was while the bus was over a grate on a bridge spanning the Chicago River. And what's worse, there just so happened to be a sightseeing boat gliding right under the bridge. Here's the Wikipedia entry:

In August 2004, DMB was at the center of a controversy when about 800 pounds of liquid human waste was dumped from band member Boyd Tinsley's tour bus through the grate in the Kinzie Street Bridge in Chicago onto passengers aboard a sightseeing boat on the Chicago River below.

Can't make this stuff up. So basically, a bunch of innocent sightseers--I seem to remember reading that this including a handicapped person, at least one senior citizen, and an infant--were showered in a nutty swill of urine and feces, and whatever else the hulking Tinsley might have needed to rid himself of.

Did the incident affect their music? Who knows. The muse strikes in any number of ways, surely. But I'm sure she doesn't recommend dumping loads and loads of shit on tourists.

9. Too Many Live Albums

Despite my earlier entry, DMB is certainly heralded as a premier live act. But man-o-man, it seems every year there's another live album. Live at Red Rocks, Live at the Gorge, Live in Chicago...I could go on. But good lord, ever heard of market saturation?? I can understand bit torrents and stuff for the superfans, but do we really need 40 official, fully packaged live albums? They have more live albums than they do studio albums if I'm not mistaken. Ridiculous!

See, Pearl Jam pulled it off with grace. Each live release was very minimally packaged and marketed, I'm sure certain shows are distributed to specific markets. But I doubt P-Jam expects anyone besides actual attendees of the respective shows to own these discs. Know what I mean?

10. Boyd Tinsley Steroid Allegations

Did any of those Chicago River sightseers check take a sample for testing? I'm just sayin...

So, take from that what you will. The DMB's decline is not without its parallels, surely at least three or four of those are applicable. Eh...maybe more like one or two. Anyway, here's to the good ol' days. At least we'll always have Crash.

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