Song of the Day #600: ‘Dive In’ – Dave Matthews Band

I’ve been pretty down on Dave Matthews Band ever since the non-release of The Lillywhite Sessions, the bootleg album that remains their best work even if it never debuted officially. The band put out Everyday and Busted Stuff instead, the former a generic mess and the latter filled with lesser versions of the Lillywhite songs.

2005’s Stand Up didn’t even reach my radar… to this day, I don’t think I’ve heard a single one of its tracks. For all I know it’s a hidden masterpiece, but I believe it was received rather coolly by critics and fans alike. And then the band did nothing for a few years, after which they suffered the death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore, a beloved band member and the key element musically in so many of their best songs.

2009’s Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, then, was positioned as a comeback, both from the artistic slump of their past few albums and from the loss of Moore. Reviews and fan reception suggested that this was their best work in nearly a decade. I was skeptical but willing to give them another try.

Five songs into my first listen, I wasn’t really buying it. The songs were ok but they didn’t strike me as the equal of the Dave Matthews Band songs I love from their first few albums.

Then ‘Dive In’ started and when I heard the opening lyrics — “I saw a man on the side of the road with a sign that read ‘Will work for food'” — I decided then and there that this album was an abject failure. An earnest song about the plight of the homeless? Sorry, you’ve lost me.

But the next line was “I tried to look busy ’til the light turned green,” which caught my attention. So did the song’s rich music and melody and the catchy chorus. It turned out to be a song about uncertainty and powerlessness and optimism in the face of all the evidence that the world is a cruel and ugly place. And somehow during the course of that song my opinion of the whole album changed and I found myself wanting it to be good, whereas I now realize I went into it kind of wanting, or at least expecting, it to be bad.

Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King isn’t as good as Lillywhite, Crash or Under the Table and Dreaming, but it’s the best thing the band has done other than those three great albums. And it has me rooting for them again. All thanks to this song.

I saw a man on the side of the road
With a sign that read
“Will work for food”
I tried to look busy ’til the light turned green

I saw a bear on TV
And his friends were all drowning
‘Cause their homes were turning to water
A strange kinda sad big old bear
I’m sure he would happily eat me
He’d tear me to pieces, that bear

Wake up sleepy head I think the sun’s a little brighter today
Smile and watch the icicles melt away and see the waters rising
Summer’s here to stay and all those summer games will last forever
Go down to the shore kick off your shoes dive in the empty ocean

Tell me everything will be OK
If I just stay on my knees and keep praying
Believing in something
Tell me everything is all taken care of
By those qualified to take care of it all

Wake up sleepy head I think the sun’s a little brighter today
Smile and watch the icicles melt away and see the waters rising
Summer’s here to stay and that sweet summer breeze will blow forever
Go down to the shore kick off your shoes dive in the empty ocean

One day do you think we’ll wake up
In a world on its way to getting better
And if so
Can you tell me
How

I have been thinking that lately the blood is increasing
The tourniquet’s not keeping hold in spite of our twisting
Though we would like to believe that we are we are not in control
Though we would love to believe

Wake up sleepy head I think the sun’s a little brighter today
Smile and watch the icicles melt away and see the waters rising
Summer’s here to stay and all those summer girls will dance forever
Go down to the shore kick off your shoes dive in the empty ocean

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5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #600: ‘Dive In’ – Dave Matthews Band

  1. Amy says:

    I’m fascinated by this post and your confession that you were rooting against this album. When I rushed out to buy it, I was in exactly the opposite state of mind – so rooting for it to become a constant fixture in my car. I listened to a couple of times, appreciated what I heard, but never found myself bonding with any of the songs. And I haven’t listened to it since until today’s SOTD, which is a great one. Just goes to show that it isn’t necessarily the attitude with which you approach something that makes ALL the difference.

    I need to dig this album out and play it again. Right now, we’re in a constant rotation of Kris Allen, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley. All of it good music – but I think it’s time for a little change-up :)

  2. Dana says:

    Because this CD has been stashed in Amy’s car, I haven’t had the chance to hear it, except for the single, which I do like a lot. I think the “change up” that needs to happen is for Amy to turn that CD over to me!:)

    I still don’t get you turning on DMB as much as you did. Yes Lillywhite was a good piece of work and I know how much you get into that whole underground vibe and story of the non-released material, but the next two albums (from what I heard of them) were not NEARLY as bad as you made them out to be. You had such contempt for a perfectly lovely song like “The Space Between” while simultaneously listening and apparently loving the far more banal drivel from the likes of John Mayer with the repetitive “Dreaming with a Broken Heart” and “Say What You Mean to Say.”

    I’m heartened to see you admit your bias against DMB after Lillywhite and hope that, perhaps at some point, you will consider revisiting some of the post Lillywhite output with a bit more of an open mind. I am not suggesting that anything in those albums is better than the three albums you hold dear from DMB, but I do think they are better than you give them credit for.

  3. Clay says:

    Somewhere John Mayer is raising his arms and saying “Hey, what did I do?!” He’s the Lieutenant Weinberg of your post. :-)

    I just listened to ‘The Space Between’ and while it’s certainly not offensive, it still doesn’t do anything for me. Then I listened to ‘I Did It,’ the first single from Everyday, and found it very weak. ‘When the World Ends’ is pretty forgettable, too. Maybe “mess” was too strong a word, but I do find the album generic and I see no reason to own or listen to it (and I’m guessing you haven’t listened to it more than a couple of times since it came out, mister!).

    There’s no doubt I looked at Everyday and Busted Stuff in a harsher light because of the albums they followed. So yes, they are likely better than I give them credit for. But that doesn’t make them good enough for me to spend any more time on them.

  4. Amy says:

    I love the Lieutenant Weinberg analogy :) I’m sure, based on previous comments in previous threads, James Taylor would agree!

  5. Clay says:

    Well, my Taylor comments came in a post about James Taylor (and Mark Knopfler), so I didn’t exactly Lieutenant Weinberg him!

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