Dave Matthews Band revisits questions of love and unity
By Dana Venerable, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Aptly released on the anniversary of Sept. 11, the new album from Dave Matthews Band, “Away from the World,” is a record about love — there’s no doubt about that. So much love. Compared to their brilliantly loud 2009 release, “Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King,” this album features a softer and smoother sound with a strongly optimistic tone.
In a culture in which we constantly question whether love exists, “Away from the World” tries to instill the hope that love will happen if we want it and need it. Dave Matthews Band’s bluesy, hearty style nicely blends with the delicate yet spontaneous and mysterious concept of love. I thought I would be overwhelmed by these messages, but this album is refreshing and deserves to be played straight through.
“Broken Things” is a great opening track that emphasizes how love could be one of the “beautifully broken things” in the world because we cannot control others and what choices they make in our relationships. It could all be taken away in an instant, but we can be somewhat sure of our choices. We shouldn’t regret acting accordingly based on our real feelings about each other.
The first single, “Mercy,” expresses that love is the answer and will save us all. This choice for a first single doesn’t surprise me — its message is the core of the entire album.
“Belly Belly Nice” and “Belly Full” are playful tracks that compare food to love in terms of feeling satisfied, something we need everyday in small doses and something we always want. “Belly Belly Nice” is high-energy, funky and has a very sexual vibe created by a saxophone and violin. Matthews sings passionately, “You can’t get too much love,” and like food, it is a very tempting and delicious song. “Belly Full” is a softer acoustic track that also demonstrates the urge to be satisfied and not left behind in life with feelings of emptiness.
“If Only” is about the absence of love and wanting it to come back. This relates back to not having all of the control in seemingly perfect relationships. They refer to this desire for love to return, or rather to be returned, in the soulful track “Rooftop,” as well.
The slow-paced “Snow Outside” is my favorite track — it’s simply beautiful, and it captures a warm and toasty essence in the instrumentation and lyrics. The band relates winter weather to the difficulties of life and how love can and should sustain us: “Come winter, I will build you a fire / From the bones of who I used to be / Before you came and washed the weary away / Before you came here for me / So right every day and every night / By the fire with the snow outside/ And the two of us.”
“Snow Outside” also has an amazing ending. It adapts a really fast tempo, as if gusts of wind from a blizzard were blowing through the track, and then returns to its previous calm state.
The closing track, “Drunken Soldier,” is probably the most striking track on the album in terms of its trance-like energy and length. Despite its complex sound, it has a very simple and inspiring message: Loving yourself is being yourself. The repeated lines — “Make the most of what you’ve got / Don’t waste time being trying to be something you’re not” — define this emotion.
There are definitely other pivotal themes besides love, such as a focus on world change through personal action in the tracks “Gaucho” and “Mercy.”
“Away from the World” is a hopeful album that insists a better tomorrow will only come through connections between human souls. Music naturally brings people together, but it isn’t the only thing that can universally unite us.
There is always the acceptance that it is okay to love and to let go of putting on fronts. “Away from the World” is an album that embraces happiness through unity and not through focusing on differences.