Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the GooGrux King

April 12th, 2010  |  Published in CD Reviews

]Release Date: June 2, 2009
Reviewed by Evelyn Miska

The Dave Matthews Band is one of the most revered and reviled bands in contemporary music. Known for their following across college campuses and fraternity houses (particularly in the late 1990s and early 2000s), The Dave Matthews Band has been pumping out records since 1991. Now, almost 20 years later, the band is still together, albeit with some lineup changes. After the untimely death of the band’s saxophonist, LeRoi Moore, in late 2008, the band turned their seventh studio album into a tribute to their fallen comrade. Big Whiskey and the GooGrux King is the result of those efforts and returns to some of the same sounds and rhythms found on their early albums. Many of the lyrics are nods to Moore, but the album doesn’t only focus on the loss of their bandmate, but also addresses tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina as well as more general struggles in terms of love and loss.

“Shake Me Like A Monkey” has that horn-based funky feel to it that many fans have come to love in Dave Matthews Band songs. The lyrics themselves also fall into the fairly typical vein with vaguely dirty lines like “I like coffee with toast and jelly, but I’d rather be licking from your back to your belly.” However, “Funny The Way It Is” takes things in a totally different direction with much more of a social activism message as Matthews sings about kids dropping out of school and soldiers dying. The melody itself matches well with the message and doesn’t become inappropriate by being too funky or extremely upbeat.

Not all of the songs fare so well though and “Lying In The Hands of God” fails on a few counts. The lyrics, for the most part, are a bit silly and insipid and the melody, except on the chorus, just isn’t all that appealing. If listeners don’t like the slow, dragging version of the Dave Matthews Band, it might be best to avoid this track. “Dive In” remedies things somewhat although the message is somewhat similar to “Funny The Way It Is” and carries another message of social activism and discusses some of the many problems in the modern world.

Unless listeners want another slightly sexual Dave Matthews song, skip “Spaceman” but “Alligator Pie” is a must listen. This is where Dave Matthews Band works exceedingly well. Pulling in some real Southern influences, the song is Matthews’ response to Hurricane Katrina and the manner in which it affected those in flooded areas. Although it is a sensitive subject, the track deals well with the issue and is one of the strongest on the album.

While some of Big Whiskey and the GooGrux King is typical Dave Matthews Band, with little real invention, there are a number of tracks on the disc that stand out, perhaps even for those who haven’t traditionally been huge fans of the band. Although there are missteps on the album, they aren’t catastrophes, just not much to write home about. However, the album does also explain why Dave Matthews Band is still making music after almost 20 years, when they come up with something good, it can be very good.

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