by: Dave Matthews Band

The fourth proper studio album by the Dave Matthews Band had a rough birth, as the group jettisoned a set of sessions recorded with their longtime producer Steve Lillywhite, starting afresh with Glen Ballard, the mastermind behind Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill. Ballard has a tremendous influence on the resulting record, collaborating with Matthews on every track and changing the direction of their sound. To a certain extent, the change is welcome, since Before These Crowded Streets suggested that the group was running out of steam, but the sudden shift toward measured maturation and slickness is jarring all the same, since it emphasizes Matthews' melodies and leadership over the group interplay that is the group's calling card. It's not that the music is now simplistic, since there are still some tricky rhythms and shifts in tone, but the group doesn't have much room to stretch in Ballard's precise arrangements. In a sense, they sort of benefit from this increased focus, since the group's instrumental excursions can be a little flabby, but it still robs them of much of their character. Also, Everyday sounds like it was the product of a difficult birth, and wouldn't have gelled if Ballard hadn't been involved, pushing Matthews toward completion. It does result in a record that's more cohesive than its predecessor, but it's far less engagingly loose-limbed than DMB at its peak. Perhaps that's just a byproduct of maturation, but Everyday feels like forced maturation, a record that suppresses the group's best attributes in favor of a moderate, self-consciously classy stab at adult pop. That it works pretty well at that level is a testament to Ballard's skills, but it feels more like a weirdly abortive solo project by Matthews than a full-fledged DMB effort. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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