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Sharp political themes carry Mathews Band release

Under the Table Dreaming

Dave Mathews Band.

RCA Records.

By David Rovnyak

A little over two years ago, a small local band in Charlottesville, Va., walked out of a recording session after only a few days of work, citing creative differences among their members. This was the Dave Mathews Band first attempt to independently release an album. They tried again only months later and released Remember Two Things, an album which placated die-hard fans, but suffered from poor production.

In the band's recent RCA release, Under The Table Dreaming, the producing talents of Steve Lillywhite (who has produced for U2 and Peter Gabriel) enhances the album's presentation. In the past year, the Dave Mathews Band was playing to sold out concert halls of 1,500 or more, including an arena performance to a packed crowd of 14,000.

Under the Table Dreaming offers two songs that were also recorded on Remember Two Things, local Charlottesville favorites "Satellite" and "Ants Marching."

A native of Johannesburg, South Africa, bandleader Dave Mathews assembled the DMB in 1991 and wrote all of the songs featured on Under The Table Dreaming, except for an instrumental tribute to the death of a friend called "#34."

The lyrics reflect the emotionally inquisitive mind of Mathews. "Dancing Nancies" conveys a struggles for understanding identity, while "Ants Marching" remembers simpler, child-like times, ". . . remembers being small / Playing under the table and dreaming."

Surely Mathew's South African background contributed to "Typical Situation," a straightforward criticism of world political machines. A favorite of fans, "Rhyme & Reason" could be skipped on this recording. This angry song, which is meant to reveal a painful, tortured mind, did not retain the impact it carries when heard live.

A unique sounds encompasses the complex lyrics; Mathews plays most of the lead guitar work, with drums by Carter Beauford and Stefan Lessard on bass. But if this were all, RCA might never have taken notice of the Dave Mathews Band. In addition to these three musicians, the energetic violin of Boyd Tinsley and the intricate sax work of Leroi Moore dance around every song with variations on the themes, giving the DMB the ability to avoid repetitive, scratched-record melodies that plague many modern releases.

The DMB is best described as alternative-rock with a great deal of popular appeal. Fans of the hard-core alternative scene may not enjoy the significant jazz influence. Keep your eyes peeled, for the DMB is rumored to have a Cambridge appearance soon.