“We live as if our hands are tied
Is it really so hard
To do what we know is right”
– The Dave Matthews Band, “Madman’s Eyes”
Look who’s getting the band back together! The Dave Matthews Band has returned after 5 years with a new song, “Madman’s Eyes,” which also heralds the coming of a new album in May, Walk Around The Moon. If five years sounds like a long time between albums, let’s remember it was six years between 2012’s superb Away From The World and 2018’s moody Come Tomorrow. I was frankly surprised by this song and the new LP announcement – which seems to happen more and more to me despite my attempts to keep an eye on bands I like. I had minor surgery on Tuesday and have basically been asleep since then. I wake up and voila, a new DMB song! Prior to surgery I’d been lost in a David Crosby and Jeff Beck music binge in honor of those two great artists’ recently lost… I had been reading that Dave was going to do another solo record like Some Devil and had that in the back of my mind as a possible release for this year. I wasn’t expecting a full-on band release and I’m delighted to hear these guys playing new music. Maybe I should schedule surgery more often?
I got in early on the Dave Matthews Band. Well, as early as most mainstream radio listeners could with the release of Under The Table And Dreaming. I was like everybody else 1994 to 2000, a huge Dave Matthews Band fan. But like many bands do, the DMB hit a bit of a mid career lull to my ears. Maybe it was the coming of the new millennium. 2001’s Everyday produced by Glenn Ballard was a huge miss for me. That one almost felt more like a Dave solo album than Some Devil. They rebounded with one of their finest albums on Busted Stuff, but once again lost me completely on Stand Up. There were a few tracks on Stand Up that I connected with – namely “Dream Girl” and “American Baby” – but the rest left me really cold. When I say they lost me completely, I mean it, I walked away from the Dave Matthews Band and left them for the soccer moms out there. Part of the problem was never being able to see them live – those tickets sold out faster than I could find a connection to buy from…
As usual, I chose the wrong moment to give up on a band. Describing their work since 2009s Big Whiskey And the GrooGrux King as a late career renaissance might be a bit strong but they’ve put out a string of really great records. After GrooGrux, which was dedicated to the late LeRoi Moore, the DMB horn player for years, who tragically died in an ATV accident, the DMB hit their stride again. 2012’s Away From The World kept the hot streak alive. And of course, 2018’s Come Tomorrow was another strong if moody and dark record. When I reviewed that record, I compared it in “attitude” to Lenny Kravitz’s Circus in that it has a rather dark perspective. There’s nothing wrong with dark perspectives, those are the only perspectives I held for a long time in life. And again, Come Tomorrow sounds nothing like Circus from a musical standpoint.
The Dave Matthews Band at this point is: Dave Matthews (vocal/guitar), the vastly underrated Carter Beauford (drums), Stefan Lessard (bass guitar) who have all been with the band since the start and Tim Reynolds (guitar), Jeff Coffin & Rashawn Ross (horns) who all joined after LeRoi’s passing. The band is rounded out by keyboardist Buddy Strong who joined the band after original violinist Boyd Tinsley left under a cloud of sexual harassment suits. They still have that eclectic, DMB signature sound.
I really like “Madman’s Eyes.” I feel like Dave’s vocals are buried a little too far in the mix but that may be because my head is slightly clogged after surgery. The song, like Come Tomorrow, is a bit of a moody track. It starts with Dave’s voice intoning a wordless melody. Then the song kicks in. It has an epic, almost cinematic sweep to it. It feels Middle Eastern to me, like it was torn from Lawrence of Arabia or it’s “Kashmir”-lite. I can almost feel hot desert winds full of sand on my face. Whatever was bothering Dave Matthews five years ago seems like it’s getting worse… when he sings, “I’m afraid, can’t lie, Momma said baby don’t you cry, In the dark be the light, Don’t let go baby hold on tight,” I believe him. It’s a hard time not to be concerned about humanity’s future.
Here’s the track:
It’s certainly an epic sounding track with strings, horns, keyboards all creating a palpable sense of tension. It’s perfect for these times. No band struggled to try and get out on the road the way DMB did during Covid and maybe that frustration is manifesting here in this song. It’s a tough time for an embattled collective Human Condition. It’s a really strong first single and it’s perfect for these troubled times. I love the Arabic flair here.
In dark times we need artists to reflect the darkness for us all to see it and to over come it. This track scratches that itch for me. I am really looking forward to late May when this album comes out. The DMB are on a roll and this song would indicate that’s going to continue!
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