Music News

You Do Not Hate Dave Matthews Band

As a card-carrying Dave Matthews hater, you should know something about yourself: You don't really hate Dave Matthews.

Oh, you beg to differ, but it's true. One cannot genuinely loathe the mellow South African and his eponymous, Grammy-winning light-rock foursome, The Dave Matthews Band, any more than one can genuinely loathe scented bath oil. Or tai chi. Or stained-glass window panels.

Still not convinced? Think of "Crash Into Me" and try to find hate in your heart. Go!

Told ya.

What you mistake for "hate" is actually the same low-intensity soul-panic that you might experience while watching a Ron Howard movie, or ordering from a Cheesecake Factory menu. There's nothing explicitly horrible in there; indeed, some of it actually borders on good, but the overall product leaves you feeling a little dead inside.

Still, you want to hate. I get that. So here are five legitimate rationales for intense Matthews non-like that you can cite with friends, aside from the passé "they're a jam band" or the rigidly doctrinal "their music sucks."

The Cult Factor: Remember the first time you told a hardcore DMB enthusiast that you find the group's adult-contemporary sound kind of retarded? I do. She was a friend of mine, and it was an incredibly vivid experience, mostly for the swift, colorful storm of emotions that immediately followed. First came a look of supreme alarm, like: "Oh, my God! You don't like Matthews! It can't be!" Then came the confusion: "But Matthews is awesome. And we're friends! It doesn't compute." Next, the indignation: "Hating Matthews is like hating a sunset. You don't know shit." And, finally, the pity: "I feel sad for you."

Essentially, it was like telling a Christian family member that you don't believe in Jesus. And therein lies the most insidious aspect of DMB's appeal: Fans of the band don't seem to understand how the rest of us could possibly not worship them. It's distinctly cultish, and it makes me wonder if one day we'll find all 10 million DMB fans lined up on a farm near Charlottesville, Virginia, dead from poisoned carrot juice, with "Crush" playing over the compound's P.A. system. Creepily plausible, huh?

They Suffer by Association: DMB came to prominence in the mid-'90s, right around the same time as Hootie and the Blowfish, Counting Crows, and Alanis Morissette (who started her career singing back-up for Matthews). Let's be honest: It was a black, disgusting nadir for American pop music, and though Matthews is in no way as loathsome as the three aforementioned acts, he may have helped them find purchase on America's collective musical psyche. And that's the devil's work, I say.

They're Irony Killers: I don't like Phil Collins, but I think I could have fun at one of his concerts. I'd remember his work on Miami Vice, think of Christian Bale's riotous pre-coital critique of No Jacket Required in American Psycho ("Don't just stare at it . . . Eat it!"), have a few beers and, you know, enjoy myself. Ironically.

That couldn't really happen at a Matthews concert. After all, this is a multi-ethnic band led by a politically contrite white South African who sings about inclusiveness and tolerance and stuff. They're just not fun to hate. Honestly, I think I could have more fun watching a bunch of pretentious ass-clowns like Creed.

They're Not Sexy: By all accounts, DMB is a technically gifted group of session musicians. You've got Carter Beauford's expansive drumming, Stefan Lessar's jazzy yet obedient bass, and the sometimes-catchy guitar licks and horny-cat wailing of Matthews himself. In terms of overall professionalism and sound compression, the band is reminiscent of '70s studio greats Steely Dan. What DMB lacks is the Dan's leavening fiendishness — that artful disconnect between form and content that gave a skinny Scarsdale Jew and his hippie, near-sighted sidekick their wildly improbable sex appeal. DMB has no such disconnect. No secrets. No sex.

They Have a Full-Time Violin Player: Are we doing a cover of "Kashmir?" No? Then lose the freakin' violin.

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Craig Outhier