Album Reviews

Matchbox Twenty – North

on August 27, 2012, 7:56am
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The first strains of opener “Parade”, on Matchbox Twenty’s new release North, call to mind the best moments of 1996’s Yourself or Someone Like You: acoustic guitars behind Rob Thomas’s always-heartbroken voice, which stretches out over the most poignant moments. Your high school soul will twinge with recognition.

Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities between North and Matchbox Twenty’s apex mostly end. This is a pity, because Yourself is actually a pretty good album, its mid-’90s radio fuel notwithstanding. Tracks like “Push” and “Long Day” have a vitality that makes them still a pleasure to catch on a jukebox, capable of inspiring passionate sing-alongs almost two decades later. Although the band’s sound grew more strained as its commercial success peaked and then dropped off, Yourself is enduring proof that Matchbox Twenty has talent.

North, however, is not. It’s unclear what the band has been doing during its lengthy hiatus (their last full-length was released in 2002), but keeping up with current music trends was evidently not on the to-do list. “Put Your Hands Up” is apparently meant to be dance music (I cringe even typing that), but like a drunken former cheerleader dancing on the bar at her reunion to prove she’s “still got it,” the track ultimately proves to be just plain embarrassing for everyone involved. Thomas’s voice, so well-suited to moody guitar music, is impossibly cheesy over a club beat, and the song’s lyrics are so generic as to be invisible. “Put your hands up/ It’s alright/ Singing oh oh” — you get the idea. You can just picture an overbearing producer telling Thomas that this is what the kids are listening to nowadays.

“English Town” aspires to be thoughtful but is remarkably bland, and more overproduced, saccharine  junk like “She’s So Mean” and “Like Sugar” gunks up most of the other 42 minutes here. If you make it all the way to closer “Sleeping at the Wheel”, you’ll be rewarded with another quiet track that plays to the strengths of Thomas’s distinctive voice — but good luck making it that far.

The rare and endangered Diehard Thomas Fan might appreciate this album. If you’re not among them, then just cue up “3AM” and try to pretend North didn’t happen.

Essential Track: “Parade”

25 comments

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Aron Romanoff
April 18, 2013 at 9:58 pm

My favourite part was when she only mentioned six songs, stated that half of them held promise, and then gave the album 1.5/5 stars. I especially liked how she managed to forget to mention “I Will” and “Overjoyed” (which are are part of the album’s first half) while mentioning “quiet tracks that play to the strengths of Thomas’s distinctive voice.” But we can’t leave out how no acknowledgment of the beautiful “The Way,” the only song not sung by Robert Thomas, was made. Great review. Could have used a few more paragraphs talking about Yourself or Someone Like You though.

george
December 14, 2012 at 6:52 am

Does this writer play an instrument has he wttten a song probably not.

..!..
November 2, 2012 at 11:21 am

Let me give this review something we always say in my place that clearly expresses our feelings towards something.

“PUTANG INA MO

Cameron Neeley
October 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I love Matchbox Twenty but i have admit that you are kind of right about the album. But not all kids listen to that dance and pop shit cuz im 17 and all i listen to is rock music, but sadly most kids to shitty music and sadly Matchbox Twenty is going in that direction. They are still my favorite band though because there old stuff is amazing.

Insanelycool
October 20, 2012 at 8:05 pm

I find it sad that so many people are categorizing the various songs on this album as anything other than brilliant. Yes its not the same as what they have done before. 5 years ago they put out about 6 new tracks that were all very different too.. was amazing too…
I can understand if you don’t “get” what it means to be an artist… especially ones as talented and amazing as MB20′s members…
If “Put Your Hands Up” is the worst song on the album, what a compliment! Lyrically its simple and to the points (lets have some fun and not worry about anything), musically its catchy and makes me want to dance.

This a home-run album. If anything its missing bonus tracks that will make you buy the other releases just to get the bonus tracks available in other countries.
One last thing… it might be argued that there are less “radio hits” than previous albums… (considering they had around 5 hits from each of their previous albums)… Time will tell, but I have faith they will get 5 again… they already have 2.

With the Band
October 9, 2012 at 5:43 am

It’s an amazement to me that someone who writes an article about music (and then dares to grades musicians like Rob Thomas and matchbox twenty) knows so little about the topic. Seriously, you don’t know what they’ve been doing for 10 years? “North” debuted at #1 on the Billboards charts and you think there are only a few die hard Rob Thomas fans left? Move on from their first album already, they’ve had 3 albums since then not to mention their solo work. Rob Thomas has released two successful solo albums, Billboards Magazine named him #5 on their list of the most successful songwriters of the last 10 years. He’s was inducted into The Song Writers Hall of Fame as the first recipient of their Starlight Award. Kyle Cook has released his own album with “The New Left” he writes and produces for other artists in Nashville. In 2012, Kyle received rave reviews for his work with John Waite, writing and producing John’s new album “Rough and Tumble”. Paul Doucette has released his own album called “Milk the Bee”. He was nominated and won an award for the soundtrack he wrote for the movie “Just Pray”. Paul and Brian Yale are also award winning song writers.
Perhaps the author would have liked the album more if Rob Thomas wore a conically shaped bra that shot fireworks on the album’s cover art. After all it would seem that’s what pop music is about to her. Real music by true artists bores her. Please get a music critic that has a clue what they’re writing about. This person doesn’t have the depth to understand the beauty of matchbox twenty. A song like “I Will” about enduring love and commitment goes right over her head. She would much prefer to hear Taylor Swift write about the last guy who dumped her. Stick to Glee lady that’s your idea of music it would seem.

Susanne
October 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm

I agree that it is different, but I am really enjoying NORTH. Another homerun for Matchbox Twenty in my book.

Sean Schlater
February 25, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I agree with you about it being different, but if you keep listening to it, it gets better and better!

DJ49
September 13, 2012 at 2:20 am

Typical “too cool for school reviewer” telling me what I should be listening to. Number one album this week, pal. Oh, I’m sure we’re all wrong. This album rocks!

Blaze
September 8, 2012 at 4:21 pm

This is an absolutely excellent review. ”
You can just picture an overbearing producer telling Thomas that this is what the kids are listening to nowadays” is exactly what I was thinking listening to this album. I feel like the band is the victim here. Almost this entire CD is dumb, musically and lyrically, just like most pop songs on the radio today.

Matter of fact, the only thing I disagreed with was “keeping up with current music trends was evidently not on the to-do list”, as I think the attempt to do EXACTLY that is what has ruined Matchbox.

The only songs on this album worth having made were Parade, Overjoyed, and Sleeping at the Wheel.

MB20Matt
September 6, 2012 at 1:33 am

Smack. Rob didn’t get you some free tickets or something. I agree it has some tracks that may have been done under the influence in a Nashville Cabin while listening to Moby, however, Parade, Overjoyed, Sleeping at the Wheel, She’s so mean and Like Sugar are A grade tracks. Like all of their work, and unlike others you can listen to 75% of the album over and over again.

Mary Leiby
September 3, 2012 at 11:07 pm

In a land where every artist on the radio, VH1 and Mtv look and sound the exact same, I was actually quite relieved to hear that MB and Rob Thomas have stayed true to themselves, their fans and their art. While I was not a fan of the first release, “She’s So Mean” (in fact I hated it with fire) I thought “English Town” was amazing and right up there with “Bent” and “Disease”. It showcases Mr. Thomas’ ability to sing with that soaring, sweeping tone that only he can do. It’s unfortunate that the writer of this review did not see fit to give the guys the credit they deserve. This is well worth the 10yr wait, IMHO.

Bob
September 1, 2012 at 9:30 pm

I have to agree that “Put Your Hands Up” strayed far from the MB20 style, but most of the other songs were good. I think the album deserves more than 1.5.

Jon
August 31, 2012 at 11:29 am

All of these comments are really stupid.

Luke
August 29, 2012 at 11:55 pm

While this review was an opinion, and the reviewer is entitled to one, i think a 1.5 is a stupid rating for the points he mentions.
Ive listened to this album a number of times.
Its not the same as their first albums, but why would it be, they have changed as a band.
But they still have their catchy tunes, robs fantastic voice, and, ‘put your hands up’ aside, great lyrics.
So far my favorite is “I believe in everything”, love the tunes in that.
“Sleeping at the wheel” was good to.

Sean Schlater
February 25, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I agree, you can’t expect all there songs to be exactly the same as their first album. PS I think if any complaint I have is that i wish “I believe in everything” instead of radio and “Waiting on a train” instead of “like sugar” had made the album.

Ben
August 28, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Rob Thomas isn’t like most artists, in that he’s very assertive with what he wants a song to sound like. Because of this, I don’t think the producer is to blame for this. Matchbox don’t like to be put into a specific mold, and so they like to bounce around different genres to just be a band, not classifiable in a sub-genre. He knows pop from his solo work, and he’s good at it. “Parade” and “Overjoyed” are indeed reminiscent of old Matchbox that you know and love, but the album is bipolar in that the other songs bounce back to pop that just isn’t what I come to a Matchbox Twenty album to hear.

Sadly, after listening to North on the iTunes stream, the author of this article is right about some tracks being head-scratchers, like “Put Your Hands Up”… but let’s be honest, you couldn’t have had very high of expectations when you saw that song title.

The album is certainly not as bad as he makes it sound in this article. After 10 years it’s kind of ridiculous to rate the album against their other albums and then peg it as a complete misfire just because it’s somewhat of a departure. As a Matchbox Twenty fan from the start, I love this album and I’m sure I’ll connect memories to (most of) these tracks as I have the band’s other albums before it.

Chris
August 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm

This album should be given 5 stars simply for “keeping up with current music trends was evidently not on the to-do list.” We want Matchbox Twenty, not today’s crap.

Steve
September 4, 2012 at 5:34 pm

100% AGREE with you, Chris!

Lorri Ellis
August 28, 2012 at 7:22 am

I was afraid I was going to think the same after SSM but saccharin it is not…. It is the real sweet stuff!!! Congrats Matchsticks…. I am so happy!!! Thank you.

Diehard MB 20 Fan
August 28, 2012 at 3:19 am

She s so mean and overjoyed are enough to prove that the guys still got it, no one has the right even to give their musical opinion bout MB 20, they are great composers and musicians..still ” put your hands ” doesn t seem appealing,it is clear that producers have put their filthy hands into that track,didn’t hear it yet but it seems it’s the only point I appreciated in the review.

Insanelycool
October 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm

why not listen to the damn song before saying yeah I agree with your regurgitated opinion about what club music is. Listen to it, read the lyrics, and enjoy it! its MB20!

TWOxACROSS
August 27, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Sorry, I lost all interest in this article when it said “keeping up with current music trends was evidently not on the to-do list.”

F*CK current music trends. Current music trends are complete and utter ass.

Diehard Thomas Fan
August 27, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Im gonna pretend this review didn’t happen, because I can already tell that you’re wrong :)

Ramana
August 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Completely agree :P I like overjoyed, I’m surprised the reviewer didn’t mention it