Review Summary: This collection of songs is the closest Dave Matthews Band has come to classic, and will probably ever come to classic.
It is a common misconception among non-Dave Matthews Band fans that the band’s songs are constantly cheerful and uplifting. The band’s third full-length record, “Before These Crowded Streets” begs to differ. This 1998 release is Dave Matthews Band’s darkest and best record to date, featuring some of their strongest songwriting and instrumentation. This album served as an outstanding follow-up to excellent debut “Under the Table and Dreaming” and superb sophomore release “Crash.” Each of these records contributed to the band’s success, along with their massive popularity in touring. The band has an incredibly original sound, complete with top notch drumming, slinky bass lines, powerful vocals, soaring violins, and soothing saxophones. “Before These Crowded Streets” expanded on this sound, incorporating elements of anger, sex, and fear into an ultimately outstanding record.
To say this record is dark does not merely suggest that it is not diverse. Single Stay (Wasting Time)
is hopeful, poppy, and bright. Although the track is potentially the weakest on the record, it provides relief from the obscurity of the record. Rapunzel
plays along these lines as well, although to a lesser extent. This song is a typical Dave Matthews Band sex song; catchy and fun. The musical breakdown of [i]Rapunzel[i] however, gives off a very mystifying vibe with Dave singing, “I think the world of you, with all of my heart I do. Blood through my veins for you, you alone have all of me.” When the final notes of Rapunzel
fade out, the listener is relieved of the bounciness and introduced to something entirely different. The Last Stop
suggests that Dave isn’t happy. In fact he pissed. The track takes advantage of a mysterious introduction, driven by violin, saxophone, and bass. The music is Arab-influenced and Dave lyrics are angst-driven; “Fire grows from the east, how is this, hate so deep, lead us all so blindly killing, killing.” His vocals are powerful and he utilizes his growl-like yell with “Hope that we can break it down, so it’s not so black and white. You’re righteous, you’re righteous, you’re righteous, you’re always so right.” Halloween
is subject to the same rage as The Last Stop
, and is arguably the band’s most livid song to date. The atmosphere of the track is creepy as the title proposes, violins and bass creating a haunting feel. Halloween
was written for an ex-girlfriend of Dave; a relationship that apparently did not end well. The growl-like yell appears here again, fuming as ever. Dave is screaming by the end of the track, “Don’t walk away, don’t walk away, I’m talking to you. Love is hell, love is hell.”
The haunting environment of the album doesn’t let up with the gem of a track The Stone
, which is one of the most intricately written songs of the band’s career. While the verses are eerie, the chorus is uplifting and hopeful, “I was just wondering if you’d come along. Hold up my head when my head won’t hold on.” The transitions are perfect; one second you’re subject to the beauty of the track, the next second your disturbed. The climax of The Stone
is truly beautiful, propelled by an exceptional violin solo by Boyd Tinsley. The record’s best lyrical song, The Dreaming Tree
is tragic, epic, and moving as Dave suggests that people never achieve what they dream of achieving. Dave passionately delivers, “A moment froze in time, when the girl who first his kissed, promised she’d be his,” and is almost begging near the close of the track, “Take me back, take me back, take me back…save me please.”
Single and fan favorite Crush
is perfectly written, featuring several tempo and mood changes and the best jam section of the record. The chorus is unforgettable, “It's crazy I'm thinking, just knowing that the world is round here I'm dancing on the ground. Am I right side up or upside down? Is this real or am I dreaming?” This is often a highlight of live shows and rightfully so, for the song is truly brilliant. “Before These Crowded Streets” elevated the previous two records to a new level, and it would be far-fetched to find more than one average track here. This album haunts and shouts with darkness throughout almost the entire record, but doesn’t disappoint when the mood changes. From the downright lovely Pig
to the blunt Don’t Drink the Water
, “Before These Crowded Streets” impresses. This collection of songs is the closest Dave Matthews Band has come to classic, and will probably ever come to classic.
The Dreaming Tree