- Friday, September 14, 2012
Artist: Matchbox Twenty
Aptly titled, Matchbox Twenty's new album North has just debuted at the peak of the Billboard Top 200. Not bad at all for the once overly dramatic multi-platinum band that hadn't released a full-length set of originals since 2002. Indeed, the prolonged absence seems to have lessened the intensity level of front man Rob Thomas and loosened the act up to simply bang out a great little rock record, which it does here.
If one had to guess, the quartet might have been flipping through its early to mid ‘80s vinyl collection while working on North. Opener "Parade" carries with it the shimmering guitar sounds of defining groups like The Church, a storm front of catchiness and cool.
Mild expletives aside, first single "She's So Mean" is really quite nice—what the offspring of "My Sharona" (The Knack) and "Jessie's Girl" (Rick Springfield) would look like if songs were to have children. Adam Ant's "Goody Two Shoes" could have easily inspired "Radio" with its acoustic rockabilly flair and punchy brass section.
A thread of ‘70s power pop a la The Cars runs through "How Long," a fun-loving love song to match the equally bouncy "Our Song." And on "Put Your Hands Up," Matchbox Twenty advises a person to leave your heart out on the dance floor, using that funky rock flavor Maroon 5 loves so much, without sounding nearly as radio hungry—a good thing.
None of this means the band lacks a sense of originality. The pure gift of well-crafted songwriting on "Overjoyed" and "I Will"—each track taking a look at both the pains and pleasures of an authentic relationship—reminds us how these guys first got on the radar.
Better yet, North is where we know for sure there's a lot more to Matchbox Twenty than the talented Thomas. The brooding "English Town" was written by the band's Paul Doucette (guitar, drums) and gives Thomas a chance to stretch his vocal extremes. Seemingly about the edge of an affair, it's a challenging topic handled with care. "The Way," a surprise favorite, is penned and sung by guitarist Kyle Cook who has quite a fine way with lead singing duties.
This is a band still revealing its strengths. North is a strong step in the right direction.
*This Review First Published 9/14/2012
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