The sudden ascendance of the Dave Matthews Band following the group’s 1994 debut, Under the Table and Dreaming, could have spelled trouble—the kind of trouble that had befallen many of DMB’s mid-1990s major-label peers. This was a group that had a few hits and a much-buzzed reputation as a good-times live act. Did the band members have enough songs—and enough time—to get into the studio and knock out a skeptics-defying, career-affirming follow-up album? Crash, released in 1996, answered with a resounding yes. The record had first taken shape on the road, while Matthews and his bandmates were still promoting Under the Table and Dreaming. Rather than simply play the album they’d just released, they’d test out new songs, with Matthews reshaping the lyrics onstage in real time, as the rest of the band tweaked their own parts. By the time everyone headed to the studio in Bearsville, New York, with producer Steve Lillywhite, they possessed a clutch of numbers that had already been workshopped and fine-tuned. But the band members and their mentor did more than just set up a few microphones and knock out Crash as quickly as possible. They finessed them even further. As a result, the pizzicato-anchored contemplation of mortality, “Two Step,” surged from its delicate foundation, while the tryst-in-waiting celebration, “Say Goodbye,” moved with the same unpredictability and fun as the one-night stand it outlined. And the album’s eventual opening track, “So Much to Say,” got punchier in the studio, with drummer Carter Beauford seeming to fight his way through his kit. Meanwhile, the fan-favorite “#41” became more languid and mournful, with Matthews navigating the taxes of success, as the rest of the band rose to match his frustrations. But the enduring allure of Crash is thanks to “Crash Into Me,” perhaps Matthews’ best-known, most-debated song. “Crash” has endured every phase of coronation and backlash; over the decades, it’s been viewed as everything from a creepy bauble to a sweet devotional. Mostly, though, “Crash Into Me” functions as a thesis statement for the version of the Dave Matthews Band that came into focus on this record: Musically versatile and thoughtful, and emotionally vulnerable—but always in search of a good time, whenever possible.

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