Dave Matthews Band had to have been feeling a certain amount of pressure going into the making of their new release Stand Up. With their 2001 album Everyday, they alienated some of their more core Bonnaroo-loving fans while attempting to cross over into the mainstream. They then placated fans with 2003’s Busted Stuff, an album of rarities and leftovers after which Matthews tried his hand at solo work. Quick thought: does a guy with a band named after him really need to go solo?

All that being said, Stand Up is a return to the jazz/rock/folk hybrid that is the Dave Matthews Band. The first sounds of Stand Up, in the song “Dreamgirl,” recall a sort of African chant that launches instantly into familiar guitar picking. Matthews exhibits a burgeoning sexuality with lines like, “How nice it would be to follow the sweat down your spine,” while LeRoi Moore coats the summer-esque tune in smooth saxophone tones. “Stand Up (For It)” repeats the first two lines over and over; forming a sort of rise to action chant that Bob Marley would have been proud of. “Everybody Wake Up (Our Finest Hour Arrives)” echoes Matthew’s failed Vote for Change Message – “See the man with the bomb in his hand / Everybody wake up.” Matthews and company combine a smooth tune with political rhetoric to make an effective song.

Some parts of the album feel labored, such as “Louisiana Bayou,” which has everything working for it – except for Matthew’s voice. In trying to mimic a Cajun accent he draws too much attention to himself, and it distracts from the overall feeling of the tune. “American Baby Intro,” which precedes the album’s first single, is simply a piano playing over gunfire and bombs dropping. It is probably meant to be an abstract artistic statement contrasting war and peace, but it comes off as somewhat ridiculous. Still, by and large the album works and serves as a welcome relief for Dave Matthews Band fans still wishing for their jam band of yesteryear.
[Brad Vargyas enjoys peanut butter and jam band sandwiches]