Under the Table and Dreaming, Part V: Typical Situation

So, I’m pretty bummed right now. I wrote this post earlier this morning, and apparently it didn’t save properly. And I was very happy with the post I had put together too. Oh well, here we go again.

“Typical Situation” is the first song we’ve come across so far that falls within my upper-echelon of favorite DMB songs. The combination of story-telling, clever writing and just plain old good music, I love this song.

Let’s start with a little background. “Typical Situation” is based off a poem by Robert Dederick called, “A Prayer in the Pentagon.” The song uses the numbers 10-1 to tell a story. Dederick has 9 verses to his poem, and each one starts off with an idea based around the number. If you look at the poem, you will see the basis of the use of numbers. In “Typical Situation,” Dave does something very similar in the verses. Now, he doesn’t do the same exact thing, because that would be plagiarism, and you don’t want to do that. So, let’s get to those lyrics…

The lyrics for “Typical Situation” are some of my favorite. The idea behind the use of the numbers is pretty neat. Listening to (or reading) the lyrics is very thought provoking and interesting. Now while the idea for the use of numbers came from the poem, the rest of the song had to come from somewhere. As I might have mentioned before (I think I have, if not… now I will), Dave Matthews is from South Africa. He is very outspoken about his motherland, Nelson Mandela, Apartheid, etc. There’s no question about his feelings towards the nation*.

*side note: I want to start doing a weekly installment of the history of the band. That way I can inform both you and myself, we can all learn something new about the band, band members, etc. There might come a time when someone asks you a random question about Dave Matthews (“How old is Dave?” or “How long has Dave been married?” or “How old are Dave’s kids?”) and you’re going to want to know the answer. (For the record: 43, 10 years [Ashley], Grace and Stella [twins] are 9 and Oliver is 3). This installment will be called “Hump Day History.” It will be every [hopefully] Wednesday. I like it. Anyway… back to the review.

Where was I? Oh yes, South Africa. Well… “Typical Situation” is largely about the lack of a good governmental system in the Rainbow Nation. It is also about apartheid. See…

Why are you different

Why are you that way

If you don’t get in line

We’ll lock you away

That sounds like apartheid to me, no? So the lyrics are very powerful yet very interesting. It’s hard for me to find ways to describe it without you hearing the song… so let’s get right to it.

Alright, don’t ask me about the video itself. I’m just happy this guy decided to use the studio version of “Typical Situation” for his video of him and his wife triking in Colorado. Anyway… you can hear the music is not very strong. It’s soft, Dave strumming the guitar, a little violin from Boyd, and Carter with some light percussion here and there. However… my favorite part of the song comes around the 1:45 mark when Dave says, “I can see three corners from this corner. Well two’s a perfect number, but one, well…” That’s where the song really picks up and gets into some good jamming.

Now that you’ve heard the studio version… here’s a few live versions. First, we have a live version from the Haiti Relief Concert. Now, DMB released a downloadable set of songs from the relief concert, and this wasn’t on it, so I’m not positive where this is from. Either way, you can hear what the song sounds like now, live. Dave has a vocal intro into the song, and then we have some beautiful sax work from Jeff Coffin. Then the band finally gets into the song. Skip to 2:38 if you want to get right into the song. Right around the 5:00 mark is where the song really picks up and it’s not as quiet and relaxed anymore.

Finally, we have the always exciting Dave and Tim version. This one is from Live at Luther College, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is a fantastic album. No more words are needed for this version.

Alright. That about sums up the review. Not much more I can say. I love this song, I can’t get enough of it on tour (or in my car for that matter). The combination of lyrics and music are just a perfect match.

Song Rating: 5/5

Next Song: “Dancing Nancies”

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