Home Read Classic Album Review: Dave Matthews Band | Everyday

Classic Album Review: Dave Matthews Band | Everyday

The jam-bander lets his freak flag fall and reaches for the brass ring of pop stardom.

This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

The past few years have been a tough time to be a hippie. First, Jerry Garcia goes to that big electric Kool-Aid acid test in the sky. Then Phish decide to go on hiatus. And now, Dave Matthews — one of the last jam-band gods still flying the freak flag — goes and sells his soul to Satan. Or, as he’s better known in the music industry, Glen Ballard.

OK, sorry. That’s being a tad harsh on old Glen. But hey, something sure seems fishy about this whole affair. Last year, you may remember, Matthews went into the studio with longtime producer Steve Lillywhite — who helmed his three previous studio albums — and recorded what was by all accounts another set of his jittery, groove-laden roots-pop excursions. Then, all of a sudden, the album was scrapped and Matthews took up with Ballard, the songwriter/producer who turned Alanis Morissette from a has-been Canuck pop teen into the queen of alt-rock angst — and the man who has produced albums by The Corrs, Brian Setzer and The Moffatts. Dave Matthews teaming up with the man who brought you Chapter 1: A New Beginning? Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Or at least very, very surprised. Everyday is definitely not an everyday Matthews album. While Dave hasn’t started pondering the definition of irony or singing about oral sex in movie theatres over Red Hot Chili Peppers grooves, his music has been given the deluxe Ballard makeover — shorter songs, tighter arrangements, ultra-smooth production, big hooks, poppy choruses, plenty of electric guitars and, above all, not a single extended jam in earshot. Matthews’ sound has been rebuilt from the ground up so completely that Ballard even gets co-writing credits on these 12 tunes.

Not surprisingly, Everyday is easily Matthews’ most accessible, commercial record by a long stretch — especially after the dark textures and complex noodling of his ’98 disc Before These Crowded Streets. Opening cut and smooth-grooving first single I Did It says it all: “I’m mixing up a bunch of magic stuff / A magic mushroom cloud of care / A potion that’ll rock the boat … Make a bomb of love and blow it up.” The rest of this 50-minute disc proceeds to do just that with its eager-to-please approach. When the World Ends is a jingly guitar bounce that builds right up the point where the old band would have gone off into an improv, but here comes to a sudden halt. The Space Between is pretty much a guaranteed lite-rock FM hit. The snappy Dreams of Our Fathers and So Right find Dave channelling Sting’s white-wine roots-pop, while If I Had it All tries on a jazzy pop groove and Kenny G-ish horn line for size. And so on, through to the gospel-folk pop of the closing title track. Everything goes down nice and smooth.

A bit too smooth, to be frank. While I’ve never been a big fan of Matthews’ self-indulgent jamming — last year’s double-live CD had 14-minute songs, for cripes’ sake! — Ballard swings the pendulum too far the other way here. He hasn’t just cut away the fat; he’s sliced into the meat of the music, reducing Matthews’ complex melodies to hummable ditties and turning his talented band into straitjacketed sidemen. Then again, maybe it’s not all his fault. After all, nobody held a gun to Matthews’ head. And those lyrics to that single cut two ways: “I did it / Guilty as charged / Do you think I’ve gone too far?”

On behalf of bummed-out hippies everywhere, allow me to say: Way, dude. Way.”