Dave Matthews Band Album Review: Before These Crowded Streets (1998)

Today, we are reviewing Before These Crowded Streets, the third album from the Dave Matthews Band.

In red is the opinion of the exceptionally talented singer-songwriter of the Lazy Saturday Project. He got to know the DMB back in 2000 in the midst of actually trying to find an enlightenment from mainstream radio music. His uncle introduced him to ‘Crash’, the album that completely changed his life and his definition of music. Since then, he has been a huge fan of DMB.

In green is my opinion. I am a huge DMB fan.

In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. He too has been listening to DMB for a long time.

Let’s start our track-by-track review!

Pantala Naga Pampa

Pantala Naga Pampa is just the type of opening song you’d like to have on an album. It’s groovy, earthy, funky, and simply tickles your ears for something more DMB.

What is Pantala Naga Pampa? The phrase is said to mean “I have a snake in my pants” in Tamil, an Indian language. This opener to the album is a forty second intro that promises a good, lighthearted time. This track is a big lie. After Rapunzel, this album is anything but carefree. Nonetheless, it’s a nice signal tune that lets you know Rapunzel is coming. It gives off the impression that the album will be light and frothy. It’s anything but, and I love the irony that comes with this track. 

Come and relax now, put your troubles down, and read this review of my favorite Dave Matthews Band album as we start off with a forty second partial song before Rapunzel. It is a cool song with a few lyrics, and I like how Dave does hit some high notes. The song has a funny name that is hard to remember, but it is cool in that it acts as an intro for the next song on the album.

Rapunzel

Rapunzel is a perfect continuation of the previous song. The similarity of vibes between Rapunzel and Pantala Naga Pampa make them both like an envelope with identical stamps. There are great dynamics throughout the song, including a tingling sound of percussion by Carter Beauford, a sick bass line from Fonzie, and wicked singing by Dave Matthews (simply something all of the fans are loving).

Rapunzel is a feat. The band restrains themselves from jamming at times to allow for Dave’s vocals and obsessive lyrics to take the stage. Boyd Tinsley kills it on the violin. I could have done with less chorus and more narrative verses, but Rapunzel is another great song in which Dave expresses his frenzied lust for women.

Rapunzel is a cool slower song that reminds me of a bar or café scene that has people playing music or presenting poems. At first I did not like how slow this song was, but it grew on me. The saxophone is what makes this song great. Some of the lyrics are funny as well. You can clearly tell it has a sexual theme to it.

The Last Stop

Lyrically, Dave Matthews has always managed to input a certain level of political views throughout his songs. This is, without a doubt, one of those songs. Thick and screaming vocals combined with the heavily eastern-influenced orchestral background, provided by Boyd Tinsley, make the Last Stop one of the heavier tunes to churn in the album. The phrase “fools are we if hate’s the gate to peace” delivers a strong value by Matthews that represents certain frustration regarding whatever conflict is happening in society. The intensifying vibes toward the end will simply leave you stranded in the jam.

My Middle Eastern blood boils in the best way possible when I hear this song. The Arabic instrumental is masterful, compelling, and relentless. Dave’s Arabic-styled vocalizing is raw and angry, which suits the music like a glove. Dave doesn’t simply sing this song, he feels it. The lyrics are, at times, mocking and challenging. Instead of feeling showy and unbelievable, there is power behind the words, and the message is delivered honestly and angrily. These guys decide to bring a banjo on board for the chorus in the midst of the middle eastern noise being projected. The music decelerates and calms down to finish, cooling you off from the heavy experience. Somehow, it works. The Last Stop is one of the best songs from this band.

You may never hear this song if you go to a concert unless it is truly the last stop, but that is if you are lucky. Anyway, this is my favorite song of the album because of how heavy it is. It has a wonderful Arabic/African sound to it, and Dave’s voice is unusual, as it is not what one would typically expect from him. Everything about this song is just great. The lyrics are really deep, even mentioning Jesus’s crucifixion. I love this song.

Don’t Drink the Water

Musically, Don’t Drink the Water is a rock song that powers up through the steady beats and Matthews’ eerie singing. The song has much more power during live show, most likely due to it being played in a faster tempo with a heavier distortion by Tim Reynolds. But the album version is atmospheric as can be.

This song has a tribal aura about it. Mysterious and strangely elegant, it’s an exchange of dialogue between two people or, perhaps, two peoples. Most accept it to be an exchange between Native and Spaniard, and others hear it as being between Palestinian and Israeli. Regardless of how you interpret the song, it’s a great one. Dave’s lyrics are sung almost euphorically despite the dark meaning of them. The loudness and aggression that erupts at the end of the song is a rewarding payoff to an equally rewarding progression that tells an engaging story. Alanis Morissette’s voice is a nice touch added to the track. Dave’s chanting is a successful ode to the natives, honest and raw in its delivery. Don’t Drink the Water is an experience, a story I can hear over and over again.

This song is a fan favorite for a reason. I love both the lyrics and the instrumental parts. Tim’s guitar-work is great and the song is so calm up until the end, where it picks up in tempo and explodes. I feel that the band plays this song at nearly every show because of how well written it is.

Stay (Wasting Time)

Stay is definitely the brightest tune of the album. This song is the perfect soundtrack for summer heat or chillaxing. The feeling of celebration is surely felt throughout the song, especially in the jamming session during the bridge and toward the end of the song. Leroi Moore really turns up the mood with his saxophone section. We are definitely not wasting time by listening to this uplifting, cheerful, groovy tune, and we sure as hell would like to stay for more.

One of the very few bright lights of the album, Stay is a joyous, happy love song. Put a bunch of black women who can sing Gospel behind Dave and this song is a celebration. The style of the instrumental parts alternate throughout the song, at times offering a sound and style of playing that isn’t common in this band’s music. It’s a nice, light song. It’s not one that I’ll remember this album for, but it’s a needed feel-good song to allow us to take a break from the anger.

This song is a fun one. The lyrics are catchy and the music is cool too. Dave’s acoustic and his lyrics are great. I like how the band put a choir in the song. In my opinion, it works. This song is great to play on a hot, sunny day when you are feeling great, as if there are no worries in your life. Overall, this song just has a lot of positive energy in it and can light up anybody’s day!

Halloween

Halloween is a song that represents anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction more than anything else. The lyrics are considered vague and have varied a lot through the years and various live shows. It is definitely a song you’d like to have in a rock show. Matthews’ screaming and passion is simply unbeatable.

When I first heard this song, I didn’t get it. I was confused. Once I looked at the lyrics and understood why they were put to paper, however, I was willing to give it another chance. This song is pure anger. The Last Stop is angry, Don’t Drink the Water is angry, but Halloween is fueled by anger. It has a spooky sound to it, starting off with a mocking tone. The second half of this song, starting with “going away,” is a painful and much needed release of anger, as anyone with ears can hear. This is a song I hope to never be able to relate to. Dave’s vocalizing at the end is unbelievable. I can hardly believe that it’s his voice pulling off the opera-like notes. I love it. Dave is pissed. 

Oh how I just love how deep and dark this song is. It is probably the band’s deepest and darkest song. This song took time to grow on me and, once again, Dave’s vocals are surprising, as they are nothing one would expect from him. I never knew Dave could scream that loud. It’s like he just let everything that was bothering him out. The music goes really well with his voice and the dark theme. Halloween is very tense. I don’t think we will ever get to hear Dave’s voice like this in a song ever again. I wish we had more songs as heavy and dark as this one.

The Stone

The Stone is one of the darkest, if not the darkest tune on the album. A solid guitar rhythm by Matthews is accompanied by a haunting orchestral piece from Tinsley, which both blend perfectly to create this atmospheric tune. Fonzie’s bass line displays a great dynamic that really locks to Beauford’s drum playing, establishing a strong foundation to the song. Moore’s saxophone playing toward the end simply adds to the beauty like a cool, breezy wind in the desert.

This song is intense. Boyd sets the scene with sinister-sounding violin, the creeping bass adds to the dark sound, Carter’s reserved drumming keeps the song progressing smoothly, and the deep brass makes the song all the more gloomy. The guitar melody is a masterpiece on its own. The song has a regal sound to it at times, appropriating it as a tribute to Dave’s murdered sister. The Stone is a great song.

At first, the Stone sounds very classical, but that unforgettable guitar riff comes to dominate the start of a beautifully deep song. I love the guitar and violin in this song, especially where they shine the most (at the beginning and end). Boyd’s violin solo at the end is a perfect example of how enchanting a violin can sound. Dave’s softer voice is just majestic. The lyrics are great. I can listen to the Stone any night while relaxing, outside or inside.

Crush

Crush is a song that honestly details the admiration of a woman in the classiest way possible. The jazz influence really makes itself known in this tune. With a great groove by Beauford and refreshing flute-playing by Moore, the song truly presents an atmosphere of love and admiration in a high sense of the individual. Additionally, the bridge of the song is simply rocking!

This song is all about the bass. Crush keeps rising and falling, and there isn’t a definitive musical climax. Crush explodes with an emotional climax, however, and remains one of DMB’s best. It seems this is a studio track that many assert is heaps better live, even more so than other studio tracks. However, I feel this particular opinion is held mainly because of the passion and the jam infused within the live performance. Regardless, I dig Crush on this record.

The mellow bass is what makes this song great. Once again I love the lyrics, and the piano playing is also a nice touch. The guitar reminds me of being on the shore at sunset. The song has a very nice romantic theme to it and is one of the most beautifully written Dave Matthews songs. Once again Boyd has an awesome solo, and Dave’s soft vocals make this song easy to listen to.

The Dreaming Tree

I would say that this is one of the more progressive tunes in the album. With a continuous 7/8 time signature, the band really plays it in a subtle way that swings easily to our ears like a non­-stop Newton’s cradle. A great thought­provoking phrase is “now progress takes away what forever took to find,” showing how reflective and thoughtful Matthews is in his lyrical creation.

The Dreaming Tree is complex, cryptic, and dark. Dave sings the lyrics with such emotion that it’s hard not to stop and listen. The music is some of the best the album has to offer. The entrancing guitar riff, the chugging bass, the saxophone, all of it is great. The Dreaming Tree keeps you coming back because of the enigmatic lyrics and hypnotic music. A highlight of this album, without a doubt.

This is one of the most beautifully written and sad Dave Matthews Band songs you will ever hear. I absolutely love the lyrics, Dave’s guitar playing, and LeRoi’s saxophone. This is another one of those songs I would rather listen to at night, or when it is dark out. It is a softer song by the band, but I cannot see why anybody wouldn’t like it.

Pig

Pig is a soothing tune with a heavy, syncopated style of drumming from Beauford, and more thought­-provoking lyrics from Matthews. I dig the usage of an animal as a metaphor for this song. Pig provides a great example of how the band’s unique musical elements of sax, violin, acoustic guitar, bass, and drums can blend well in a song dynamically in a way that the listeners can surely enjoy.

Pig is an acquired taste. I did not like it upon my initial listens, but it has grown on me over time. The meaning of the song is nice and honest, Boyd’s violin is great, and the passion is clearly present. This track was initially difficult for me to get a grasp on because it had a glossier, showier sound than the rest of the album. Regardless, I have come to terms with Pig. I deem it a solid song.

Pig is an interesting song. I really like its intro. One could find themselves on a farm or the countryside with Boyd’s violin. The song has a nice western/country feel to it. Pig is best, however, when it picks up in tempo.

Spoon

Alanis Morisette’s vocals can’t be more beautiful than they are here. This song is thought to have a religious reference, predominantly through the phrase: “Could dad be God…forgive you why, you hung me out to dry.” The song moves at a slow pace with the great attribution of Bela Fleck on the banjo and Moore’s soothing sax playing throughout the song. It serves as a sweet closer for the album.

I really like how Spoon starts, slowly and with a strong, dark overtone. This rhythmic, relaxed track is perhaps one of the darkest, saddest, most contemplative songs this band had created. It grows more intriguing as the narrative progresses. Alanis Morisette adds a nice touch to Spoon. The Last Stop reprise that concludes this song is a flowing, relaxing finish to this album. I love Spoon.

I have always found it cool that the band got Alanis Morissette to be part of this album. She does a great job in this song. It’s another soft, slow song that is beautiful. It is nice to see the Dave Matthews Band take a shot at the soft rock sub-genre, and it does work. I always found it funny that the song was called Spoon, but you never know what you will get from these guys. It’s cool that there is banjo (not the bear) in this song. I also enjoyed the guitar starting around four minutes until the end. Spoon is a great way to end this masterpiece. Thank you all for reading this review! Just remember, Don’t Drink the Water, especially on Halloween!

Lazy Saturday Project’s Top 3: 

Last Stop

The Stone

Crush

My top 3: 

The Last Stop

Don’t Drink the Water

The Dreaming Tree

Robert’s Top 3: 

The Last Stop

Don’t Drink the Water

Crush

Before These Crowded Streets is a masterpiece of a record. It is dark, insightful, and complex, both musically and lyrically. Big ideas and bold sounds define this album. This Filet is a meaty one that you need to have in your music library. 

I’d like to thank Lazy Saturday Project for hopping aboard this review. I urge you to check out his blog! It’s full of album reviews and original songs. This guy’s got pipes. It’s a fresh, clean blog here on WordPress that is worth your attention. Here’s the link again in case you’re lazy your thumb/index finger is too tired to scroll back up. Thanks again to him! 🙂

~Juck

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