Dave Matthews Band has stunning debut

October 07, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic


Dave Matthews Band (RCA 66449)

Even though the Dave Matthews Band owes its live stage reputation to the free-wheeling interplay it exhibits onstage, what makes "Under the Table and Dreaming" such a stunning debut is the strength of the group's material. It isn't just that the songs are catchy; Matthews handles their lithe, supple melodies with such ease that the music flows like conversation, pulling the listener along as effortlessly as if he or she were a participant. Even better, the band has a great sense of groove, evincing all the rhythmic discipline of a jazz band without ever losing its sense of the song. Consequently, the songs have an almost organic sense of structure and direction, from the ebullient "What Would You Say" to the turbulent "Rhyme & Reason," to the tender "Lover Lay Down."


Bone Thugs N Harmony (Ruthless 88561 5526)

Even though pop culture commentators still like to make ominous noises about the menace posed by gangsta rap, truth is, the style is all but played out. Don't believe it? Then maybe you ought to spend some time listening to Bone Thugs N Harmony, the Cleveland quintet whose EP "Creepin' On Ah Come Up" purports to be the latest twist on the gangsta sound. Musically, "Creepin' " comes on like a sonic junkyard, mixing a bit of this and a touch of that without any concern for content or originality. As for the vocals, apart from the group's semi-distinctive flow -- a slightly more syncopated variation on the dancehall-inflected delivery popularized by Naughty By Nature -- there's nothing noteworthy about the raps themselves, TC apart from the number of syllables squandered per song. All in all, recordings like this are simply too laughable to be alarming.


Brooks & Dunn (Arista 18765)

After playing it a little too safe on their second album, Brooks & Dunn have decided to have some fun. So even though many of the songs on "Waitin' On Sundown" have to do with cheatin' hearts and broken relationships, the duo somehow makes it all seem like a rollicking good time. Although some of that surely has to do with the spirited singing found throughout the album, most of the credit belongs with the rhythm arrangements, which add extra zing to almost every song. That's clearly the case with faster numbers, such as "Little Miss Honky Tonk" or "Whiskey Under the Bridge," but even such mid-tempo tunes as "My Kind of Crazy" benefit from the rhythm section's drive (not to mention the occasional rock-style crunchy guitar). As for the ballads, the duo adds enough Eagles-style energy to "Silver and Gold" to ensure that the song shines.


Smashing Pumpkins (Virgin 39834)

Anyone who has ever wondered what the difference is between a great band and a great album need only look at Smashing Pumpkins' latest release, the B-sides and leftovers compilation "Pisces Iscariot." Were the Pumpkins a great band, then it would be easy enough to find evidence to that effect amid such ephemera; instead, what we get are acoustic trifles ("Soothe"), one-dimensional rockers ("Plume," "Hello Kitty Kat"), failed experiments ("Spaced"), and half-baked cover versions ("Girl Named Sandoz" and an almost unlistenable "Landslide"). In other words, there's almost nothing here of interest to anyone but collectors and completists.

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