The next person I meet who is ambivalent about Dave Matthews Band will be the first. People seem to either love or hate this band. Except that can’t possibly be true because nothing about art is binary and, well, I for one am kind of ambivalent about Dave Matthews Band.
Crash was one of those albums that ended up in my CD collection because of some Columbia House shenanigans and because, even though it’s become a meme, “Crash Into Me” is a very good pop song. It’s also not half as good as a few other tracks from Crash: “Two Step,” especially in its latter half, does this great stormy prog thing; “Lie in Our Graves” is exactly as sonically uplifting as its title is dour; “Drive In Drive Out” is DMB doing hard rock; and, if you get a few drinks in me, I’d probably tell you that “Say Goodnight” and its flute solo is the best song in the band’s catalog. As a person who regularly writes about commercially unpopular bands, I realize that I’m not supposed to say this but, seriously, you guys, Crash is pretty good.
And “So Much to Say,” the album’s opener, encapsulates everything that is great about the record and, in my view, the band. The song’s chorus—”I find sometimes it’s easy to be myself”—is as catchy as anything the band has ever done, the alliteration of “treading trodden trails” is a perfect bit of wordplay that’s shockingly deep, and watching DMB incorporate heavy saxophone use into a viable single is, honestly, just remarkable.
And, to be clear, “So Much to Say” was considered a viable single. It was the second single from Crash which is all the more impressive when considering that “Crash Into Me” was the album’s third single. From a commercial standpoint, “So Much to Say” was the last thing DMB did before their fame exploded, which maybe doesn’t mean anything but which feels meaningful and which I find endlessly fascinating regardless. Plus, the songs gives us Matthews’ weird “little baby” vocal tic that Andy Dwyer uses to describe my patronus, DJ Roomba, and that’s worth an awful lot to me.
I don’t love DMB and I don’t love “So Much to Say” but the former is fine and the latter is pretty great. It’s weird to me that pop culture history has decided that this is an impossible—or at least improbable—conclusion to reach. It’s 2021. Don’t we know by now that almost everything lives in a gray area?
This post originally appeared in the Songs & Stories newsletter. You can find it, with a few footnotes, here.