It’s no big secret that the rampant popularity of the Dave Matthews Band among high school and college students has made the pill of “jam bands” and more musically inclined and not guitar-dependant outfits easier to swallow. Sure, Phish laid the seed during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s with an overwhelmingly progressive following, but they tend to instigate either a strictly obsessive pleasure or an apathetic disliking. Plus, they’re not on the radio so much. DMB’s popularity (a catchy acronym vaults a band’s importance monumentally, of course) in album and concert sales, and mostly radio play, have given them the kind of pied piper status, although on a much smaller scale, that Nirvana had with grunge. Point being, listeners that would never give elaborate and talented bands like Agents of Good Roots or Rustic Overtones a chance because of their lack of air play and cathiness, might now because of DMB’s success. Of course, it’s highly debatable whether these bands have any recognition at all, with or without Dave’s influence. It just seems more likely now that it’s a possibility, given the circumstances.
Still, it’s questionable whether or not Rustic Overtones solid new EP, Volume Up, will propel their status. It’s unfortunate, since radio seems to solely give bands of this nature (“jam band” is a lame, disagreeable term, but it serves it’s purpose well enough) to Dave Matthews, as if they were the only representative. Perhaps in a better world.
But it’s not that RU (nice, eh?) doesn’t pull out all the stops. Bring in cameos from Funkmaster Flex and David Bowie (an interesting combo), and layer horny songs with Dave Gutter’s Peter Gabriel/Dave Matthews lilt and lyrics about lounging around, drinking, smoking cigarettes, and cars, and it’s a fair effort. “It ain’t heavy, it’s just heavyset,” Gutter croons on “Heavy Set,” and he makes good sense. The songs are casual, loose, rocking, swaying. The real winner is the closer, “No More Noyes,” a loungey, shoddily adhered demo that is ultra-sincere and brilliant, all in the attempt to score another cigarette “if the world starts to end.” Step up the production values, bulk up the length, throw it on soundtrack and watch it grow. Stellar.
Alas, no prospective fan is likely to go out and fork over 10 bucks or more for a six song, 17-minute affair (“Beekeeper” is all of 35 seconds). Still, Volume Up, whether for established fans or not, is a fine, complete record. Get the men another cigarette. Hell, even light it for them.