How dumb does Dave Matthews think we are? Does he think that we don”t pay attention to the words of his songs?
In the chorus of one down and out ditty, Matthews sings dreamily of how the world would change “if I had it all.” Yet his nasal voice is difficult to understand and Matthews makes it sound as if things might look up “if I had a dog.” Although it”s doubtful that Matthews intended listeners to make this mistaken interpretation, it”s nevertheless an appropriate one to have made considering the thematic content of his new album, Everyday. Ten of the disc”s 12 songs involve the same subject matter: Convincing a girl to have sex. That”s right, folks, Dave wants but one thing … bitches (“oooh, if I had a da-awg!”).
The album”s first single and opening track, “I Did It,” aside from being a poor attempt to make a pop song chorus out of three monosyllables (worst idea ever), seems to be little more than a preemptive confession for the rest of the album. Exactly what he did is uncertain, as the lyrics unplayfully skirt around the details of an incident involving drugs or sex or both.
Regardless, Dave has no remorse, which only makes the rest of the album unnerving, as he devotes a batch of coercive love songs to girls reluctant to give it up. While his simplistic methods of inducement include sympathy (“If I Had It All”), mockery (“What You Are”), begging (“Angel”) and more begging (“Fool to Think”), one song goes so far as to seemingly attempt hypnosis with the phrase “all you need is, all you want is, all you need is love,” repeated ad nauseam. Tunes like “So Right” and “When the World Ends” rely on a juvenile carpe diem rehashing of cavalier ideology (sleep with me before it”s too late!!!) that Matthews already employed on the album Crash. Unfortunately, the not-very-well-concealed sexual metaphors on Everyday are even less clever than “come crash into me.”
What all of Everyday”s vagaries amount to is pussyfooting around the fact that Dave”s horny. It takes balls to reveal your most salacious secrets, which is why Mick Jagger singing “brown sugar, how come it tastes so good?” is the essence of defiant rock and roll gutsiness and Matthews singing “I Did It” for no explicable reason is not even worthy of being classified as rock and roll.
Of course, there could be an explanation. I suppose Dave could”ve realized that his audience consists of Greek college students and naive high schoolers, and thus written this record to mock all the girls who will undoubtedly be seduced too easily to its soundtrack by some concupiscent pre-or post-adolescent. Though this is just sadistic enough to proudly be the sordid spawn of The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa and Tom Waits, I never took Matthews to be one for irony.
And the album”s shortcomings aren”t merely lyrical. Musically, Everyday is painfully derivative of everything else the band has already released. The chord changes sound like they were lifted straight from the tablature in their old songbooks and altered only enough so as not to infringe on the band”s own copyrights.
The songs are shorter, essentially abandoning the violin and saxophone solos. Although Leroi Moore”s campy saxophone is used sparingly, there is little audible evidence that fiddler Boyd Tinsley is even a member of the band anymore. That Matthews would mute his only competent soloist while also drastically abbreviating the length of his tunes indicates that he was after a more stripped down pop album.
It”s only natural, then, to expect a higher pedigree of song writing craft in place of the extended song forms and jam outs, the “live sound” that this band is so reputed to possess. This brand of studio-refined popmanship is tricky business. Although none of the integral musical lines of a good pop tune may be particularly complex, the way they fit together involves a great deal of precision. That the songs can maintain both a sense of their intricacy and simplicity renders them musically stimulating.
A record like Everyday, however, becomes so cluttered by the electric guitar and faux strings glean of studio overproduction that it sounds pretentious. And there are few things less appealing than unfounded pretense.
Grade: F+ (Quick note on the unusual F+ rating: Although this record may be slightly better than the majority of the candy fluff crap that plays on Top 40 radio and MTV, all that means is that it”s a notch better than nothing)