POP/ROCK

Dave Matthews Band, “Come Tomorrow” (Bama Rags/RCA)

For Matthews, “dad rock” isn’t a put-down. His ninth studio album, his band’s first since 2012, earnestly embraces fatherhood, commitment, lifelong romance and hope for the next generations.

The album starts with a song welcoming a new child, “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin),” with pealing guitars that echo the reverent gravity of U2. And the album ends with “When I’m Weary,” an orchestral hymn that acknowledges “dark dark days” but vows, “You remind me to keep on trying.” A gloomy streak runs through Matthews’ back catalog, yet willed optimism fills the songs on “Come Tomorrow,” while cynicism and irony are nowhere within earshot.

This is an album of love songs: love progressing through childhood crushes, adult lusts, parental nurturing and benedictions for unknown descendants. The title song starts with an old man bemoaning the state of the world even as a “little kid” starts figuring out how to save it.

The music provides convolutions. Folk-pop, funk, metal, jazz, math-rock and pop from South Africa (where Matthews was born) all show up in the 14 tracks. The band can converge on a riff or fan out in intricate counterpoint, and its agility makes odd, shifting meters and Matthews’ leaping vocal lines sound natural. The interplay of the core band easily opens out to arena scale on the album.

A six-year gap between studio albums hasn’t tempted the Dave Matthews Band to try to update (or obviously computerize) its sound. The album was recorded gradually. Two songs that have long been evolving in the band’s live sets, “Can’t Stop” and “Idea of You,” include alto saxophone from LeRoi Moore, a founding band member who died in 2008. “Idea of You” — a jammy song about a childhood crush lingering to become an adult romance — is also the only track with violinist Boyd Tinsley, who left the band in February after two decades.

One of Matthews’ strengths has been his lyrics’ passionate respect for women. The women in his songs are compelling, beautiful, mystical and carnal all at once. “Come On Come On” declares “I just wanna make you” in a “great great love” but comes across as worshipful, not pushy.

“Do You Remember” echoes Shangaan pop from South Africa while the lyrics sketch a romance that began young, with children’s games, and grew up to “making love in the back seat.” Matthews also contemplates childhood joys in the jam-like “Virginia in the Rain,” with him crooning, “Don’t grow up too fast.”

The realization that life is cyclical is a long view, a fatherly view. Matthews has decided he’s not going to be the grumpy old man he sings about in “Come Tomorrow,” but he doesn’t sugarcoat things either; each song notes the fears and sorrows it’s determined to overcome. The music does that, with consolation in its melodies and a life force in its rhythms.

Jon pareles, New York Times

 

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