Dave Matthews Band

If you're a fan of the Dave Matthews Band's loose, collaborative approach to free-flowing, upbeat jams, you'll likely be disappointed by its latest, Everyday. The new record is like fat-free cheese: a rubbery, tasteless imitation of the rich original. All the same players are there, but the thrill is gone.

Place the blame on Glen Ballard (of Alanis Morissette and "You Oughta Know" fame), with whom Matthews co-wrote the album and who has "rehabbed" the group's sound into a ready-for-Top-40 package. Gone is the smorgasbord of round-robin jams, Boyd Tinsley's scorching violin solos, Carter Beauford's intricate jazz-fusion drumming (which was, admittedly, a little busy at times), Leroi Moore's soaring sax lines… all gone, replaced by meager, four-minute Lean Cuisine meals. Ballard, you bastard.

The long-awaited record opens with the flaccid "I Did It," which assaults the ear with a rude electric guitar riff and features an embarrassing "rap" by Tinsley. Yikes. Next track, please. "When the World Ends" soothes any ruffled feathers; within this expansive, sensuous groove is the DMB of old. This is one sexy song: "Your legs don't work / 'cause you want me so / You just lie spread … I'm gonna take you to bed / love you I swear / like the end is near." This song, along with "Fool to Think," "Sleep to Dream Her" and "Everyday" boast the old, familiar polyrhythms and acoustic jangle we know and love, but they're tempered by such missteps as "What You Are" (what's with the wispy, space-age intro and cheesy keyboards?) and "Mother Father," an overearnest attempt at socially conscious lyricism.

These songs reek of a need for acceptance; the question is, Why? DMB has been popular for years, selling roughly 100 million records. What's the band trying to prove? Devoted fans will likely feel the group has pulled a fast one on them, replacing the gooey, satisfying concoction of records past with a flavorless substitute, leaving listeners longing for the tastier original.

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Melanie Haupt