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Dave Matthews Band: Busted Stuff


Dave Matthews Band

Album: Busted Stuff
Label: RCA

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Good music sounds even better when it comes with a legend attached, and few legends romanticize a work like attempts to suppress it. (See also: Prince's The Black Album and Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, though not Powerman 5000's still-unreleased Anyone For Doomsday?) Dismissed by Dave Matthews Band and its label as too somber, then extensively bootlegged, downloaded, and hailed by critics as the group's best work, The Lillywhite Sessions helped apply an air of mystery and controversy to an act frequently derided for its blandness. But while that unreleased collection of two-year-old songs does showcase a deeper, darker, and more compelling side of Matthews, it's no Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, that other unearthed Internet sensation dubbed too "challenging" for listeners. Overlong and devoid of the one surefire hit single that finds its way onto each DMB record (though the exquisitely sad "Grace Is Gone" is a beauty), Lillywhite Sessions can be a chore to take in all at once, especially by the time it gets to the ill-conceived "Monkey Man." As much a companion piece as a replacement, Busted Stuff re-records and re-sequences the album more to Matthews' liking, subtracts three songs (including "Monkey Man"), adds two more (including the chiming ringer "You Never Know"), brightens the sound, shaves 15 minutes off Lillywhite's 70-minute running time, and tacks on an extra DVD as a bonus to paying customers. Purists may complain that the rejiggering is meant to gloss up the recording for commercial consideration, and that Busted Stuff's compactness renders it more in line with last year's comparatively cheery, Glen Ballard-helmed Everyday. But little of Lillywhite's soul-searching introspection is skimmed off: Songs like the epic closer "Bartender" still document Matthews' spiritual struggles as he wrangles with issues of death, faith, and doubt. The tracks are just shorter and tighter now—"Kit Kat Jam" is not only truncated, but converted to a brisk instrumental—liberated of windy excesses without de-emphasizing the gentle pathos or the supporting players' dexterous contributions. Busted Stuff does strip away some of the Lillywhite mystique, dropping the exaggerated façade of "lost classic" status, but it further illustrates that Matthews' discards are often more compelling than his hits.