It doesn't take a genius to figure out the appeal of Dave Matthews Band. To rock fans burned out on the hordes of Nirvana knockoffs and Hootie hopefuls, the Virginia-based quintet's ear-catching jazz-folk fusion must seem like an entirely new genre. Rootsy yet exotic, Crash, the band's third album, substitutes high-flying violin and saxophone solos for guitar wank, weaving such disparate elements as flamenco, funk, and country into the crazy-quilt mix. This sort of melange isn't wholly without precedent such forgotten early '70s groups as Mark-Almond and the Flock attempted a similar thing but it sure sounds, well, fresh.
The band's top-flight musicianship doesn't hurt, either; these boys can play. Cock an ear to Boyd Tinsley's violin rave-up on ''Tripping Billies,'' or sax man Leroi Moore's mellifluous honking on ''#41.'' Then there's Matthews' voice: Otherworldly and elegantly elastic, it fosters the impression that this guy must be some sort of visionary, even when he's singing claptrap like ''Now I am the proudest monkey you've ever seen/Monkey see, monkey do, yeah.'' On second thought, that lyric could be construed as a taunt to would-be competitors. After all, one of the nicest things about DMB's music is that its distinctive complexity serves as a virtual assurance against a flood of lame imitator bands. B+