New from Dave Matthews Band and Taking Back Sunday
By Glenn Gamboa
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King” Grade: B
Sometimes inspiration comes during the darkest days.
For the Dave Matthews Band, it came in the days after the death of founding saxophonist LeRoi Moore, who died in August after being injured in an ATV accident, while they were still working on “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King” (RCA).
Although the band has always been top-notch in concert, they had been struggling in the studio in recent years with production issues and conflicting views about where they were headed. On “GrooGrux King,” which was Moore’s nickname, their motives are clear, even while their hearts are heavy.
No surprise – much of the album is concerned with death and the weightier questions surrounding it. “Doesn’t everyone deserve to have the good life?” Matthews asks in the groovy love song “Spaceman.” “But it don’t always work out. Cry, cry, baby, if we must.”
“Spaceman” is actually a lighter moment, especially when paired with the funereal, nearly menacing “Squirm,” and it serves as almost a coping mechanism throughout the album, mixing pretty sounds with dark lyrics and vice versa. It works well in the horn-heavy, churning “Shake Me Like a Monkey” and the single “Funny the Way It Is,” which juxtaposes jazzy tinges with dark-hearted sentiments.
It’s melancholy stuff, for sure. But its singular purpose also makes “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King” the best Dave Matthews Band album in more than a decade.
Forget what you thought about Taking Back Sunday. It no longer applies. On “New Again” (Warner Bros.), the quintet practically reinvents itself over the course of the record. The stunning “Sink Into Me” explores new rhythms and new sounds, while “Lonely, Lonely” and “Swing” offer a harder Foo Fighters-ish rock sound.
The three-part harmonies of “Carpathia” and the rebellious but catchy kiss-off “Capital M-E,” as well as the epic rocker “Everything Must Go,” not only make “New Again” the band’s best album, but one of this year’s best as well.
Cobra Starship puts in an early bid for song of the summer with “Good Girls Go Bad” (Fueled by Ramen), a fizzy big-tent number that charmingly tries to unite Lady Gaga-esque dance-pop and the indie-rock cred of singer Gabe Saporta, left. Throw in “Gossip Girl” Leighton Meister and a cheerleader-rap breakdown, and “Good Girls Go Bad” becomes an irresistible summertime confection.
Rancid’s “Let the Dominoes Fall” (Epitaph)
Ryan Bingham’s “Roadhouse Sun” (Lost Highway)
Elvis Costello’s “Secret, Profane and Sugar Cane” (Hear Music)
311’s “Uplifter” (Volcano)
Iggy Pop’s “Preliminaires” (Astralwerks)
Jeff Buckley’s repackaged “Grace” (Sony Legacy), with two DVDs
Glenn Gamboa:

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