74. Dave Matthews Band - What Would You Say?

I've praised some of the songs on this list for their musical simplicity. "What Would You Say?" is not one of those songs. If "Nobody Loves Me" by Lyle Lovett is the Ronald Reagan of musical simplicity, "What Would You Say?" would be Che Guevera. There is not a simple musical construct within 10,000 miles of this song. It begins with a frenetic acoustic guitar opening and never slows down.

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds both played all of the acoustic guitar parts for the album Under the Table and Dreaming, from which "What Would You Say?" was the first single. So it's not clear who's dancing all over the fretboard throughout the song, but they both make an acoustic guitar sound much more complex than I've ever heard anyone else do with one. The sheer number of notes per second must be astronomical. Every single member of the band gets their moment to shine and show what they can do. Drummer Carter Beauford probably plays the simplest part, but he still shakes up the timing in the preface to the chorus and I just love the "knock, knock" of his snare drum to echo the lyrics of the song. The winner of most notes played in the song may just go to bassist Stefan Lessard. He just takes every bass beat and plays four notes all around it, giving the bass line almost a disco feel. I love complex bass playing (bass players too often have to be the musical foundation and so they don't get to have much fun) and this is some of the best. Saxophonist LeRoi Moore even gets in on the action, playing a preamble solo that transitions into a blistering harmonica solo from John Popper of Blues Traveller. Popper plays the harmonica like he's the Kirk Hammett of harmonicas. Why play four notes in a bar when you can play forty? The production by veteran producer Steve Lillywhite (who produced U2's first three albums) is so crisp and clean that you can differentiate all the parts, even though there's so much going on.

So although I enjoy musicians who can convey powerful feelings with a minimum of musical fuss and production, I have to say that a musically complex song really gets my heart pumping. I love listening for all the intricacies and layers, breaking each part down in my head and then putting it all back together again and enjoying the songs as a whole. For this song, I'd listen to it once and focus almost completely on the bass line. It's almost as if it was its own song. Then the drums, the guitar, etc. It lets the music geek in me have my own little Comicon going on in my head. As much as I love "Nobody Knows Me" by Lyle Lovett, there's not a whole lot for my music geek brain to chew on. This song is a Vegas buffet. I'm gonna eat 'till I can't eat any more. And then I'll go get another dessert plate.

Lyrically, the song is definitely confusing. The lyrics remind me of some of Duran Duran's lyrics. The phrases in themselves make sense, but put them all together and I have no idea what they're talking about. Here's an example:

I was there when the bear
Ate his head, thought it was a candy
Everyone goes in the end
Knock knock on the door
Who's it for, there's nobody in here
Look in the mirror my friend

I was still in lyrical confusion until I did some research and found out that Dave Matthews' older sister, Anne, was murdered by her husband, who then committed suicide. In the aftermath of such an astounding tragedy, I'm sure Dave was filled with all sorts of uncertainty about life, but left with the unwavering conviction that you need to make the most of the time that you do have, because you never know what may happen next.

I don't understand at best
And cannot speak for all the rest
In the morning rise
A lifetime's passed me by

He doesn't want to wake that one morning and realize that he's wasted so much of his life. And he's warning us, too. To crib a line from the philosophical treasure chest that is Kung Fu Panda, "There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called"present." I know it's super corny, but it's true. Dave thinks so, too.

No video clip that I can embed for this one, but here's the YouTube link:

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