It’s amazing how something brand new can feel so old. A few tracks into the latest record by one-time radio mainstays Matchbox Twenty, I had to look at my iPod to make sure I hadn’t accidentally hit play on Mad Season or More Than You Think You Are. It’s been almost a decade since the bands last album of new material, and yet here they are sounding like they never took a break (they did release a greatest hits-type record called Exile On Mainstream that featured a few new songs). That could have been a good thing if it meant that the band was continuing on its path toward making smart, fun pop music. Sadly, it does not.
The only thing I heard that was a little bit new was a little bit of an 80’s dance music vibe on a couple tracks. Other than that, it’s basically the same as every other album they’ve put out. Here’s the thing though…as much as I can say that it’s a step in the wrong direction and blame the band for not trying to make music that’s different from what they’ve done before, I love Rob Thomas too much to say that you shouldn’t at least give it a listen. Especially if you’re a fan of all their earlier work.
Say what you will about Matchbox Twenty, for Top 40 Adult Contemporary they’re the best in the biz. I’ve returned to their albums often over the years. Upon it’s release I thought that More Than You Think You Are was just a cash grab to milk out as many singles as possible, it’s actually an overlooked gem nowadays. And the solo work that Thomas put out, while not amazing, was really solid. His song “Her Diamonds” may be the most criminally underrated pop song of the last ten years.
So do I like the bands return? Well, I can’t say I love it. After ten years I would have thought that something would change. On North, the guitarist, Ryan Cook, sings lead on one song and that’s about the only difference. But if you like Matchbox Twenty you’re gonna get this anyway. And if you don’t like them you probably stopped reading after the title, so I’m not changing any minds here. Hopefully the guys will do a tour and then head right back into the studio to make a follow-up that reminds us why they dominated the airwaves in the late 90’s and early 00’s.