It will warm the hearts of existing fans but will do nothing to swell their ranks.
Julian Marszalek 2009-06-15
Though death, like its evil twin taxes, is a given, there's no legislation for how one reacts to it. Grieving is a personal business yet here is the Dave Matthews Band with their first album in four years, reeling from the unexpected mid-recording passing of co-founder member and saxophonist Le Roi Moore – the titular GrooGrux. Moore is the first thing that's heard on the album; a mournful piece of horn-blowing that in other circumstances probably wouldn't have seen the light of day.
What follows is pretty much what one would expect from a band whose reputation is forged more on their live performances rather than what's captured for posterity. Like their spiritual forebears, The Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band can – and frequently do – jam until beards grow and beer turns flat. And while the live experience is one thing, their recorded output is quite another.
So it is that Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King finds itself in the middle of the road rather than heading for the ditch. Polished to a blinding sheen with all sharp edges smoothed for personal safety by erstwhile Green Day and My Chemical Romance producer Rob Cavallo, the songs float pleasantly by without making much of an impact.
Shake Me Like A Monkey is a vaguely funky-yet-ultimately-anaemic party tune and with state-of-the-world meditations like Funny The Way It Is or cutesy ballads such as You & Me applying enough cheese for a fondue; this is stodgy and gruelling fare.
It's only on Time Bomb that the band finally jolts into life as Matthews shakes his fist at the void and yells, ''I wanna believe in Jesus!'' but by now it's too little, too late. Ultimately, Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King will warm the hearts of existing fans but will do nothing to swell their ranks.