“Holy shit! Matchbox Twenty doesn’t suck? The times really have changed.” That was my reaction to the band’s new album, North, which is a tad electronic, a bit popish and slightly badass. Overall, it left a surprisingly positive impression. Of course there are some songs the album could have done without, but North is by far a better record than I anticipated.
A gloomy piano opens up “Parade” as lead singer, Rob Thomas, bemoans the fact that nothing spectacular can last forever. The pace and the beat liven up a short into the track. The vocals are pleasant, calm and work well with the creative track. Standing in contrast is “She’s So Mean”, which features prominent clapping and electric guitars, setting a nicely upbeat and energetic tempo. It’s about a girl who’s totally addictive but completely unbearable because…wait for it…she’s so mean. Attractive and possessing a “wicked sense of humor.” She has a lot of shitty habits like “making you go to a club only to leave with her friends.”
Next up is the mellow “Overjoyed,” where the band talks about a depressed girl (or friend) who he wants to comfort because that will make him overjoyed. This is one of the tracks the band could have done without. Alternatively, the best track on the album is “Put Your Hands Up,” which features a danceable beat and party atmosphere. The drumming and the filtered/electric highlights are very cool making it an awesome tune to groove and/or chill to.
While the trajectory of the album so far has been to alternate between sad and happy tracks, “Our Song” keeps the party going with fast and awesomely sweet, electro -inspired tunes. The song’s sung from the guys’ perspective whose female friend has been there for him through thick and thin. He realizes that the he wants a relationship with her as he sings, “This can be awesome”.
“I Will”, brings us back to neutral with acoustic guitars and some simple singing, no fancy vocal work on this one. This could be the anthem for hopeless romantics; the content consists of dreams, couples, and mutual support. It’s a good song but not particularly striking any which way. I prefer a faster Matchbox Twenty, but I sort of enjoyed the track nonetheless.
The vocal work on “English Town” makes the song worthwhile. As the better “emotional” track on the album, it shows a very different side of Rob Thomas vocally – it’s deeper, creamier and a lot more provocative. Following is, “How Long”, bringing back the electric elements that the band uses, oh-so-well. The track is pretty romantic but not too cheesy. It’s about a man who wants take his relationship to the next level, but his lady friend is hesitating. The beat is happy and the vocals are not at all depressing.
The speed, “Radio” keeps the good vibrations high, sounding like 50’s rock n’ roll homage. Conversely, “The Way” is closer to Muzak; chances are it won’t really catch on. Of course the content is about a guy who wants to be with a girl who does not want to be with him, that seems to be a recurring theme for the band.
“Like Sugar” is a song about wanting to break up with a girl but she “tastes like sugar”. The tracks’ steady tempo and electronic nature, in combination with the addictive melody, mimic the content of the song really well. “I’m starting to want to you more than I want to” is pretty much how I feel about the track.
“Sleeping At The Wheel” has a great melody and lovely vocals but the content can be a point of disagreement among fans. It’s a sentimental song and somewhat philosophical, but it can also come off as too hippy and not stimulating enough.
There’s no denying that musically, Matchbox Twenty, is solid as hell. It’s more of their personal style and how well others react to it that will determine the success of their new record. Given, Rob Thomas has been building up his street credibility in the last few years (check out his stint on It’s Always Sunny…), and it can influence how well the band’s music will be received, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Out of 5
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