Much has been made about the spectre of loss lingering over Dave Matthews Band’s new LP “Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King”. After all, it’s the first album the band’s released since the unexpected death of sax player LeRoi Moore. Truthfully, though, DMB’s no more fixated on loss on this album than they’ve been at any other point during their career, and “Big Whiskey” is by no means a mournful set. The quartet powers through a song cycle that’s more of a celebration of life and love (and sex) than it is about death, with the only obvious nods to Moore’s passing being the sax noodling that opens and closes the album.
With veteran rock producer Rob Cavallo taking the reins on this album, it retains a shiny gloss while sounding far dirtier than 2005’s overproduced “Stand Up”. Highlights include the wickedly upbeat “Shake Me Like a Monkey”, the uber-jammy “Alligator Pie” (with it’s wildly shifting tempos and semi-nonsense lyrics), the ominous “Time Bomb” (on which Matthews howls Eddie Vedder-style), and the sexy “Seven”, on which Matthews unleashes a playful falsetto. The album flows together nicely, and although a major part of their operation may have departed, “Big Whiskey” finds the DMB in as good a form as they’ve ever been.