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.
on September 5, 2012
Okay, here's the thing: I've read the critics' reviews, I've read the blog reviews, and even the fans' reviews, and now I'm gonna give you the lowdown from a guy who was a fan from "Push" and actively sought-out Tabitha's Secret as a result, then went on to purchase every album, DVD, solo project and the like the members of my all-time favorite group put out. Here's the skinny about "North."
Loved it. It could really just end there, but I'll elaborate, unlike a few of the not-so-good reviews I've read who won't say WHY they don't like it, other than to say it's not old-school MB20. How could it POSSIBLY be old-school, when they've grown and developed new sounds, tastes, experiences over the last decade and a half? To presume you were gonna hear the dripping cynicism of songs like "Kody" and the heartbreaking melody of "3am" is naive, in the extreme. New decade, new sound.
What makes this album special is that it's an evolution of the band. It's eclectic in the extreme, and that just makes it a really fun groove. Give me "Overjoyed" and then hit me with "Put Your Hands Up." A few songs later wind me down with "I Will," then toss me back in the air with "Radio" before setting my teeth on egde with the nasty, sensual sound of "Like Sugar," a song to have slow sex to if there ever was one.
Put it all together, and it just WORKS. No other band could've put an album like this together and still maintain the quality that drove me to them in the first place. Not DREW me to them, DROVE. Because MB20 has always insisted I feel and relate in some way to every sound they've made. And I do.
on September 4, 2012
Like many posters I have been a Matchbox Twenty fan and Rob Thomas solo fan for many years. I have to say that this is their best complete album to date and Rob has never sounded better. I'm seeing a bunch of really excellent reviews for the album from fans on the internet. My reaction on first listen was that outside the two upbeat pop songs, "She's So Mean" and "Put Your Hands Up", the album was very mellow. I call it mellow...some former fans may call it boring. It's all in the eyes of the beholder. On my second listen, I "got it" and I got the vibe they were going for and I really loved it. There are some really awesome songs on here. "Sleeping At The Wheel" may simply be the best song that Rob has ever written and recorded. I can't tell you how special I think that song is. I do hope the band will go out on a limb and release it as a single one day. It will give non-fans a new appreciation for what this band is all about.
Other stand out tracks for me are "Parade" and the Paul Doucette penned "English Town".
Here's one old fan that is so happy with the direction the band has taken. If you are a music lover that can listen to Katy Perry and appreciate the fact that she has some good pop songs and then flip gears and listen to Fleetwood Mac to U2, then I suggest this album might be for you. If you aren't into pop/rock music, then you probably should just skip this one. I will add that when I say pop I get a very Elvis Costello vibe from songs like "Radio" and "Our Song" with a modern twist.
Lastly, I can't wait for the band to start touring. That's where they really shine.
BTW, the critics have never liked Matchbox Twenty. I wouldn't expect them to change their opionion now. Matchbox beats to their own drum and that's how it should be. They've never been the flavor of the month. This is a band that has sold 18 million albums in the US but has never been invited to play on SNL or The Grammys or been on the cover of Rolling Stone yet they are still here and I have a feeling will do very well with this release. There are people out there that appreciate great music without being told that it is great. I have my own ears to make that decision myself.
on September 15, 2012
In their latest effort, Matchbox Twenty serves up 12 selections of rock/pop adult alternative versatility. The fact that this album is the band's first #1 album on the Billboard 200... EVER, reflects the anticipation of those longing for their next release (It has been 10 years since their last full-length studio album!). But what we have here is a overwhelmingly poppy album, much poppier than I expected to be honest. I am one of those people jumping for joy to still get releases from 90's artists (i.e. Fiona's and Alanis' lastest lps) but can't help but to note that this album lacks so much of the fire that Matchbox Twenty had years ago. Of course nothing stays the same and to be completely fair, this is a solid effort given the current state of rock/pop music; however, it leaves some to be desired after a 10-year gap. I would attribute the minor slip to the solo break by Rob Thomas back in the mid 2000's, the constant need for artists to reinvent themselves, and the bipolar musical landscape of recent years.
On a positive note, there were some shining moments on here that cemented Matchbox as the great band we all love from 1996. Songs like "The Way," "Sleeping At The Wheel," and "English Town" are all great records and I definitely will find myself playing these regularly. There are a couple moderate tracks like "Parade" and "I Will," and a couple of downright sugary-sweet pop confectionaries like "Like Sugar," and "Radio" that deserve an immediate skip. All in all, I'm glad to still hear some new Matchbox material and hopefully they'll continue to stick around.
on September 7, 2012
I've listened to this CD now many times and I still don't like it very well! I was surprised by all the great reviews. Than again I checked the other M20 albums and they have NEVER had an overall negative review on any album. Track one Parade starts off very promising, sounds like the trademark M20 style and sound. Overjoyed is a pretty nice ballad, Put Your Hands up is a fast tempo dance song which sounds more like a Rob Thomas solo, Our Song is another uptempo song which again sounds like it could have been on a Rob Thomas solo album, I Will is just a slow boring song acoustic piece, English Town isn't much different VERY boring, How Long is pure generic trash (never should have been put on the album). Again most of this stuff sounds like it should have been on Rob Thomas's third solo album and the second one wasn't very good! Radio convinces me that M20 was trying to change styles on every song something that worked pretty well on Rob's Something To Be. But here it doesnt work as well. This song isn't terrible but it's too much experimentation for M20. They are so far off their sound, it's not even funny! The Way and Sugar are two more bad forgettable songs which continue to experiment on new styles. Sleeping At The Wheel sounds like they are trying to sound like Coldplay (the riff). It's a decent ballad. On my version there is a track 13 I Believe In Everything which is another ballad, not bad but again there just isn't anything about this CD that is remarkable. Most of these ballads get old after a while! Straight For This Life is another terrible boring acoustic song. So to sum it up there's a few songs I can see myself playing and adding to my M20 playlist. The IRONY about this album is that I LOVE the first single She's So Mean! An absolutely ultra catchy pop song with catchy riffs and contagious rhythm! I know it DOESN'T sound like a Matchbox 20 song, it's a song very much in the vain of Hey Souls Sister by Train. But it's such a great pop song, I know some people despise M20 for making a song like this, but I absolutely love it! I was hoping for more songs on the CD like this or at least more songs that were catchier lively or if they did some ballads make them beautiful with better production. Unfortunately there isn't anything like this on this album. I understand why M20 put out a song like She's So Mean. Train's career has been saved by this type of song on their last 2 albums (Hey Soul Sister, Drive By, etc). But this album is so bland and boring I can't even see a big hit single saving it and reviving their career. I hope I'm wrong, they had some GREAT early albums in the late 90's and early 2000's. Rob Thomas Something To be was also a great CD! Right now this CD is #3 on Amazon, that's a good sign. If they do have a comeback, i hope they make the next album better overall!
I am familiar with some of the bigger hits from Matchbox Twenty, but North is their first album that I have bought. However, if "Long Day", "Push", and "3 AM" are representative of what fans expect, North will probably be met with some backlash by longtime fans. While some songs like "Parade", "Overjoyed", and "I Will" are more of a progression, there are a lot of other influences and styles to be found here.
I thought there was a lot of 80's influence on songs like "Put Your Hands Up" which has new wave/INXS flavors. The lead single "She's So Mean" reminded me a lot of Rick Springfield while "Radio" screamed Adam Ant. There were also some more modern influences. Some may also think of Maroon 5 when listening to "How Long" or "Like Sugar".
This may sound like a lot of variety, but it actually hangs together fairly well. I think "English Town" shows more complexity than their other songs that I've heard previously. It starts out with piano on the first verse but it adds distorted bass on the chorus and second verse. Then they mix in some strings on the bridge before the guitar solo. I think if you approach the album expecting maturation and development, you will like what you hear.
While Matchbox Twenty don't write a lot of lyrics of great depth, I did find it interesting that the album ends on a note of hope and thankfulness - "So come on, come on we can be saved" and "But for the grace of God I'm here and still aware". It seems that Matchbox Twenty is another band that has mellowed with age.
Download this: English Town
on September 5, 2012
My Sansa Clip which I listen to daily has all of the previous MB20 albums on it. Nearly every song I have rated with 5 stars. When I heard this was coming out I couldn't wait to add another MB20 album to the mix. After the release of the Single "She's So Mean" I was certain this would be another awesome album. The day it released I bought it and have listened to it a number of times hoping it would grow on me. Sadly, it just isn't cutting it. Other than a couple songs, the rest of it feels like "I bet we have a lot of fans that would buy an album if we write some stuff" so they forced themselves to do it. None of it really feels like "I have something to say and I want to sing about it." I know that isn't a very descriptive review, but I can't really describe it any better. Many seem to like it but I'm guessing those are the fans that would like anything they do no matter how bad it is. My advice is to listen to clips and streams before you decide to buy. Some may be happier just buying a couple songs rather than the whole thing.
on September 24, 2012
As a huge MatchBox 20 fan, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed at first by the pop sound of this album. But, I'm a fan, & quickly found my favorites which got me to listen more closely. The lyrics are everything when it comes to MB20. There is also a definite 80s vibe in many of the songs.
Once I got past, what I first thought, was an album that was starting to conform to a radio ready sound, I realized one of my favorite bands are still there. They've grown, & they play with many sounds on this album. I have to say, between the lyrics & the 80s influences, I'm hooked & obsessing. Cannot wait for the tour to come to the US!
on October 28, 2012
Once again Matchbox 20 comes out with a great album. After a long time waiting for a new album, they are still producing great music. If you are a fan of their previous work then you will love this album. If you consider buying it, I would suggest not getting the the version with the video (North (Deluxe)[+video]). This version is almost twice as much as the regular MP3 album and the video is a low quality video which you can download for free on youtube. Besides the different MP3 album versions you can get, this album will not disappoint you.
on September 6, 2012
I've always been a loyal fan of Matchbox. Even when all my music junkie friends were trashing Exile on Mainstream, I stood by them. Yeah, the new stuff on that album was weak, but they were just biding their time to come up with something worth the wait, I said. I love this band specifically because that's what they were--a band that was fine for the mainstream, but were still just their own sound, with deep pulling lyrics. They had their singles, but it was the stuff that never hit the radio that you love them for. "Bed of Lies", "Kody", "Rest Stop". Need I go on?
They were just biding their time, I told myself and friends, just wait.
When they released "She's so Mean," I still gave them the benefit of the doubt. It's a super pop-y song, yeah, I said, but they're just playing it safe, it's been a while since they've had a single, they want to make sure the upcoming album will be well received. The rest of the album with be them, just wait. Just wait.
"Parade" plays, and I just know I was right. It's them, beautiful, mellow, moving. It's Matchbox! They're back!
Skip over "She's So Mean,' because we've all already heard it and I already gave my opinion of that one.
Forward to "Overjoyed." I like it. It's no, "You Won't Be Mine", but let's face it, I couldn't honestly be expecting another Mad Season.
"Put Your Hands Up" plays and I actually stop breathing. I half expected Adam Levine to sing the vocals. You've got to be kidding me. Techno-pop. From Matchbox? I understand that your sound has to evolve with the industry, but how does this song come from the same group that wrote something like "Downfall"? It's like two completely different groups. I liked Matchbox Twenty because they DIDN'T buy into stuff like that. It was about the melody, not the mix. Sad day.
"Our Song" may as well be a Maroon 5 release, as well--just slow the tempo by half a beat. And I am not a Maroon 5 fan.
"I Will" left me feeling rather indifferent. But am I the only one that mistook it for "Hey There Delilah" at first?
"English Town" leaves me torn. I would adore this song, if it were truly instrumental--not to mean no lyrics--it would have been for this album what "Downfall" was for More Than You Think You Are--if not for that blasted electronic theme that wormed its way into this release.
"How Long." Well. All I can say is that you should try playing it along with The Click Five's last album. Yes, I just compared those two bands. I shouldn't be allowed to do that, right? My point exactly.
"Radio". I like Radio. It's fun in the same way that "Black and White People" is. It's new, but it's still Matchbox when Matchbox is upbeat.
"The Way" is one of those songs that I can't seem for form a concrete opinion on. Part of me likes it, part of me doesn't; a small part of me feels like it should be sung with a bad southern accent on a country station...
"Like Sugar"--despite the non-Matchbox Twenty sound of electronic all through it, I find myself liking this song. I think something about the 80's-like beat pulls at my nostalgic heartstrings.
I really like "Sleeping at the Wheel." This is a Matchbox Twenty song. It's got that classic melancholy feel with the undercurrent of hope that I've come to love them for. This is what I was looking for. Yeah, there's a bit of Rob Thomas solo in there, but that's okay. His solo stuff always has a little bit of Matchbox in there too.
Don't get me wrong, I know that bands have changing sounds. But even when they CHANGE they don't have to LOSE what they had. And they didn't lose it throughout the whole album, just certain tracks. This album leaves me confused because it bounces back and forth so much. One track IS them and the next makes me think immediately of another band. And the tracks that I don't like aren't BAD songs; I would like them from other other bands. But if I wanted to hear other bands, I would have bought other CDs. I bought a Matchbox Twenty release because I wanted MATCHBOX TWENTY, and half of these tracks just...aren't. As a fan, that leaves me disappointed.