Dave Matthews is a lover, not a fighter. Yet when it comes to Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, he’s suddenly more pugilist than pacifist. “I keep saying, ‘I could either play you the record, or I could just punch you right in the face.’ It would be different, but there’s a similarity,” he insists. “Do you want to hear my new record, or should I just hit you?”

Any slap-happiness could prove epidemic as fans and newcomers get their hands on Dave Matthews Band’s seventh studio long-player. Although the fairy tale-sounding album title is “a mouthful,” as Matthews admits, perhaps the key part of it to keep in mind at the outset is… big. Producer Rob Cavallo, who’s working with the group for the first time, isn’t known for tiny or timid recordings—not with a recent track record that includes Green Day’s American Idiot and Kid Rock’s Rock N Roll Jesus. Any stereotypes about a stock DMB sound immediately get all shook up in the wake of the opening track, “Shake Me Like a Monkey,” which features an Earth, Wind & Fire-style horn section that can only be described as punchy. That recurrent brassiness gives way to a string section on three tracks. But the largest part of the group’s largess may come from how Matthews, traditionally an acoustic guy, has fully embraced the electric guitar—not just in his own playing but that of highly regarded axeman/pal Tim Reynolds, who’s participating in a DMB studio project for the first time in more than a decade.

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