Oh Bondage Up Yours!

"What you are is missing a beat," Dave Matthews declares midway through Everyday. Timing, he's reminding us, is everything. Agreed: The usual late-winter lack of new releases means the critics are beating a drum for DMB's delivery of their give-props Pop album, with producer Glen Ballard as midwife. That said, Dave's still tough to square with today's 'tween, angry teen, and alt routine radio triangulation: He's lovable when all anyone seems to want are foxy pre-fucks, fuckups, or plain fucks. His eccentricity, and rad rhythms on arty singles, point to a parallel between the Dave Matthews Band and, among select others, Destiny's Child. And though Dave's no Beyonce Knowles when it comes to mature sass and smarts, the crying-for-candy child he admits he is on "Angel" beguiles nonetheless. In spite of apparent adult issues.

Consider the forward-thinking "When the World Ends." "I'm gonna tie you up like a baby . . . you'll come with me," pervy extrovert Matthews coos, making just enough sense to violate what you thought a love song was supposed to be. DMB's three previous studio discs average three super songs each, all almost-ballads—a combination of Dave's horny scorn, corny horns, chirpy riffs, and Beyonce-to-this beats. Everydayhas at least six tracks more beautiful than U2's "Beautiful Day"; the album, needless to say, kicks All That You Can't Leave Behind's behind. The ballyhooed-by-critics, merely-booed-by-fans common wisdom implicitly equating Everydaywith Phish's short-songs Farmhouse(none of which, by the way, made it up Cripple Creek) rings true. Indeed, solos have been subtracted (give or take the obligatory Santana stain in "Mother Father"). Ballard—who may well not even smoke the doobie—quashed 'em. The producer-arranger-songwriter was brought on board when Dave's social drinking and antisocial feelings started to affect the socialist vibe of the band; no one wanted to jam on the 12 cuts Dave dragged out of his dumps. All these demos were canned subsequent to Ballard's ballast righting (via cowriting) Matthews's muse; if we're to believe Rolling Stone, this made Dave happy again yaytheend.

Yes, we should all be happy that Ballard insisted the band kick, not drool, out the jams. But Daveis still searching for that "space between our wicked lies," the place where he hopes to be "safe from pain"; Ballard's editing forces him to squeeze his sex and hope and rage into smaller spaces, between rat-cage bars. But they're open bars, where the sweet wine he presumably still drinks flows from; Dionysian melodies abound. Then there's that catchy-so-what new single fans were disappointed by. Oops: "I Did It" again finds Dave mentioning magic mushrooms and trippin' on "all-for-a-song" rhetoric. But infinitely more important is the "B.O.B."-gone-adult-contemporary thump backing that jazz up. The clichéd backbeat-as-heartbeat bit can't be applied here—think murmur or palpitation. (Then again, there isthat jive about one's ticker skipping a beat and the earth moving. Love is so confusing!)

This is drummer Carter Beauford complying with Ballard's blandishment to keep it rock. "I Did It" 's bump isn't the butterflies-in-the-stomach high-hat flutter of "Crash Into Me," the lil'-drummer-boy-on-the-run anxious snare sneer of "Two Step," or the split reggae-hip-hop drop of "Crush." It's huge and twisted and dense—just not showily so. Stefan Lessard's bass maintains a metallic bop; there's a busy but indistinct midrange (including the first electric guitar ever on a DMB disc); and on top—where else would he be?—is Dave, dancing all over somebody's grave. Who cares why he did it—that's what the almost-ballads are meant to explain. As in the above-mentioned next track, "When the World Ends." Boy, does it ever. What was it the French said about the little death? Dave seems to be working up to one as the D-day clock ticks down. He's whispering dirty things in our ears. He's playing an acoustic guitar (insert phallus reference here—no, wait, right . . . here).

Well, we knew it was coming. The crank-it-up-in-your-Explorer tune, that is. There may not be a "Crush" or "Crash Into Me" on Everyday, but that pair was practically unequaled in pure prettiness on the radio during the '90s. And tracks two through five and seven and eight come damn close. But Dave doesn't always have so much to say: Like a chain-smoking, coffee-guzzling AA addict, he seems timid and nervous as well as reformed. Hi, I'm Dave, and I'm a codependent: "I'm seeking more wisdom." (Big brother Ballard nods approvingly.) Duh. Whereas "When the World Ends," "The Space Between" ("You cannot quit me/so quickly"), and "Sleep to Dream Her" ("I wish I could bend my life to hate her") sound like the gin and tonic talking. Which might also explain the stumbly drums that so often accompany DMB's best songs, and how quickly Dave goes about his business therein. Why would anyone prefer to hear him (or his sax or violin man) noodle over hearing abouthis noodle?

Which noodle of his hardly matters; we all know what guys are supposed to think with anyhow. Witness the following exchange between Dave and Tori Amos, in Newsweekthree years ago:

Tori: Oh no, no, I'll turn red. Not when he's sitting here. I'm not going to talk about sex.

Dave: Sex is, it's like a thing, right? That people do. I'm going to have some coffee so I don't say some things I'm going to regret.

Tori: You're charming, I'm telling you. Do you have a woman?

Of course he did, and he's since gotten hitched. He's not a simple sleaze like that guy Steely Dan or Marshall "Mediocre Social Skills" Mathers; even Dave's small, searching voice sounds a little embarrassed leading rockers like "So Much to Say." No, he bats his eyelashes at least as well as he pulls his pud.

Meanwhile, earlier in the interview, Dave says he's "one of those alcoholics that's doomed to a long existence as a smiley drunk." "Crush," the song off '98's Before These Crowded Streetsthat makes me the most smiley, hums as he gently implores, "Lovely lady/let me drink you pleeeease . . . crush me/come on." This, obviously, wasn't what we meant calling somebody a "crush" in high school. And the delicate-sounding "Crash Into Me" (off Crash,'96), which culminates in "you come crash into me/and I come into you," begins with "you've got your ball/you've got your chain/tied to me tight/tie me up again." Like a baby, maybe—think of the categorical imperative. (Hubby's obvious—word is, Mrs. Matthews has motivated adult Dave to depart Old Virginny for the left coast.) Whether he's infantilizing himself or someone else, Dave's figurative BDSM language betrays the ways in which hurt (like groove) is in the heart. Beyonce Knowles rightfully insists men quit callin' her baby. But would she object to Dave Matthews calling her mommy?

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