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Matchbox Twenty Shines on First Full Length Album in 10 Years
on September 4, 2012
Nearly ten years have passed since matchbox twenty released their last full length album, More Than You Think You Are. During that timeframe, the music industry has battled to survive while undergoing a complete makeover in the process. The members of matchbox twenty have kept themselves busy over the past 10 years with various side projects. Lead singer Rob Thomas released two solo albums "Something to Be" and "Cradlesong," which performed very well on the charts while also spawning several number one songs, "Lonely No More," "Ever The Same," and "Someday." Lead guitarist Kyle Cook stepped up to the microphone to handle lead singing duties in his band The New Left that resulted in an underrated EP titled "Let Go" (if you're unfamiliar, check out the songs "Cecelia" & "Wind-Up Girl") before recording additional songs as a solo artist (check out "It Is What It Is"). Former drummer and current rhythm guitarist Paul Doucette crafted a strong debut album under the moniker "The Break & Repair Method." Bassist Brian Yale decided to lay low in Orlando, getting his hair trimmed and working on his golf game in the process.
In between the ten year break between full length albums, matchbox twenty re-convened in 2007 to release a greatest hits package that included 6 new songs. After working with Grammy award-winning producer Matt Serletic on their previous three albums, the group chose to work with Steve Lillywhite and the result was an album that sounded very different from matchbox's previous releases (With the exception of the hooky "These Hard Times"). The album went on to spawn the number one single "How Far We've Come" and matchbox felt reinvigorated, proving they could still be current in a music scene that had changed quite a bit.
Five years later, matchbox twenty returns with the album North to prove they still have what it takes to be relevant in the ever-changing music industry. Working alongside producer Matt Serletic once again, the result is an album that is much more like the band's first three albums while also highlighting a maturation process and proving that matchbox hasn't lost touch with the current trends in pop music. The album plays out as such.
1. Parade- 9/10
Pulsing verses lead up to a strong chorus with solid backing vocals and reverberating guitar riffs. Great way to kick off the album.
2. She's So Mean- 8/10
The first single off the album, this uptempo pop/rock tune is chalk full of hooky guitar riffs, driving drum beats, and catchy lyrics. This song follows the formula of matchbox twenty always releasing an uptempo song as the first single ("Long Day" "Bent" & "Disease" were the first singles on previous releases) and should not be used to judge the sound of the album as a whole. People have voiced concern that this song is a huge step away from matchbox's classic sound, but just as people were concerned about the drastic change in direction when Rob Thomas released "Lonely No More" as his debut single as a solo artist, all fears of an all out change in direction will be quelled after listening to the rest of the album just as they were when songs like "Ever the Same" and "Streetcorner Symphony" were released.
3. Overjoyed- 10/10
Best song on the album, hands down. This is a classic matchbox midtempo ballad that you will not be able to get out of your head. Heartfelt lyrics combine with one of the catchiest choruses Rob Thomas has ever written, and that is saying something! This will be the second single, and it will put everyone's concerns to rest regarding matchbox departing from their classic sound.
4. Put Your Hands Up- 7/10
Synthesized uptempo number that I'm still on the fence about. It's an extremely catchy song with a chorus that is hard to get out of your head, I'm just not sure if I'm a fan of all the strange Nintendo-like sounds going on in the background of this song.
5. Our Song- 9/10
Catchy uptempo number that employs synthesizers similar to the sound Rob Thomas experimented with in the song "Mockingbird" on his second album Cradlesong. This song will be great to hear live when matchbox tours in Winter 2012.
6. I Will- 8/10
Slower acoustic guitar driven ballad that is pleasant to listen to. Not super catchy, but filled with heartfelt lyrics, a soft chorus, and a beautiful piano solo.
7. English Town- 9/10
Haunting midtempo ballad with an extremely memorable piano arrangement. This song reminds me of a slowed down version of "Downfall" (from More Than You Think Are).
8. How Long- 8/10
The Nintendo sounds are present again on this song, but they aren't as emphatic as the sounds used in "Put Your Hands Up." This is a solid midtempo number highlighted by one of the best bridges on the album.
9. Radio- 6/10
Its possible my mind will change regarding this song, but as of right now, this uptempo rock-a-billy tune is my least favorite on the album. The verses aren't that bad, but the payoff at the end of the chorus is not up to par with the rest of the songs on this album.
10. The Way- 10/10
Lead guitarist Kyle Cook handles lead vocals on this beautifully simple midtempo ballad and the result is absolute perfection. Cook last sang lead vocals on a matchbox record during the chorus of the song "Hang" from the band's debut album Yourself or Someone Like You and with results as strong as that song and this current offering, here's to hoping Cook gives Rob Thomas a well-deserved break on future releases to come as well.
11. Like Sugar- 8/10
This midtempo tune has a mysterious vibe to it and sports a sound very different than matchbox's previous works. The catchy chorus of this very chill song makes it a memorable one.
12. Sleeping at the Wheel- 9/10
This closer starts out with an epic drumbeat and sports Thomas singing with his lower vocal register for the verses before going back to his classic tone in the chorus. This song reminds me very much so of U2's classic "Where the Streets Have No Name," which is the greatest complement I could bestow upon this great closer.
BONUS SONGS (*NOT available on the regular version of North for which this review pertains to)
1. I Believe in Everything (Purchase single on Amazon MP3 or iTunes, also available on North Deluxe iTunes & Japanese Import) - 8/10
Solid mid-tempo number with an understated yet catchy chorus with memorable guitar riffs ringing throughout that lead up to a beautifully done bridge and final pre-chorus breakdown.
2. Straight for This Life (Purchase single on Amazon MP3 or iTunes, also available on North Deluxe iTunes & Japanese Import)- 9/10
Beautifully done acoustic ballad that is extremely soothing as a result of the nice tempo and calming background vocals. The emotion in Thomas' vocal is pouring out on this elegant track.
3. Help Me Through This (Japanese Import, German "She's So Mean" B-Side)- 9/10
Beautifully done midtempo track with a great build-up to a rocking chorus. Very catchy and definitely worth the treasure hunt to uncover it.
4. I Don't Wanna Be Loved (Target Exclusive, Japanese Import)- 8-10
Solid midtempo number that utilizes searing guitar riffs that build up to a solid sing-a-long chorus. The synthesizers are present again on this song, but they don't detract from the quality of this track.
5. Waiting on a Train (Target Exclusive, UK Import)- 9/10
Great uptempo track with a super catchy chorus. Definitely worth seeking out for the hardcore matchbox twenty fan.
With the release of the appropriately titled North, the future for this talented quartet looks extremely bright. In a world where the radio is dominated by flash in the pan artists who have no true substance, matchbox twenty is a great reminder that quality musicians are still capable of maintaining successful careers by putting their passion for the art that is music above their desires to make a quick buck. Here's to hoping that this is just the second of many chapters to come in the story that is matchbox twenty.