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Matchbox Twenty - North Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8
Musicianship 7.5
Lyrics 7
Production 8.75
Creativity 7.25
Lasting Value 7.25
Reviewer Tilt 7.25
Final Verdict: 76%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.31
Musicianship 9.06
Lyrics 9.13
Production 9.5
Creativity 9.13
Lasting Value 9
Reviewer Tilt 9.31
Average: 92%

Matchbox Twenty - North

Reviewed by: Gregory Robson (09/03/12)
Matchbox Twenty - North
Record Label: Atlantic
Release Date: Sept. 4, 2012


Some bands are defined by the hardware. Awards, accolades, etc. The Orlando rock quintet Matchbox Twenty has only racked up People's Choice Awards and an APRA Award, so from a hardware standpoint, there's not much there. Maybe these one-time Billboard heavyweights are defined by their volume. Their 1996 debut Yourself of Someone Like You went 9x platinum, while their sophomore album Mad Season went 4x platinum and their 2002 effort More Than You Think You Are went 2x platinum. As a solo artist, vocalist Rob Thomas has gone platinum with both of his efforts, 2005's Something To Be and 2009's Cradlesong. Rob Thomas however has garnered three Grammy Awards, 11 BMI Awards and two Billboard Songwriter of the Year honors.

So why exactly is Matchbox Twenty, ten years removed from their last full-length studio album, still churning out new material? To be frank, your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps they're just bored. Either way, the band's fourth effort, North, picks up on the forward momentum and halcyon triumphs of 2007's Exile on Mainstream, a faux greatest-hits/EP combo that went gold here in the States, and was propelled by the fiery lead single "How Far We've Come."

But what every music listener wants to know is does North mark a return for the band or just a one-off release? Truth be told, I haven't the foggiest. Once upon a time, guitar-based melodic pop-rock, a la the band's first two efforts was all the rage. Somewhere that much-loved genre is still waiting to make a comeback, but regardless of how they try to evolve their sound, the band will always be looked at as the group that wrote songs like "3 AM," and "Real World." Pull the wool over the eyes and just listen to this record set apart from any of the band's previous efforts. Chances are, it won't look nearly as unpleasant. The hooky single "She's So Mean," is an absolute knockout and a great pop cut. It has all the hallmarks of the classic Matchbox sound. Big chorus, ringing guitars, a jangly opening and Rob Thomas' inimitable vocals. While the lyrics are a bit lackluster, it isn't exactly a throwaway.

North opens with "Parade," featuring lingering guitars, crisp production and Thomas' ageless vocals. While it is not nearly as soulful as it was nearly two decades ago, it still remains the center point of each of their songs, and on "Parade," it does not disappoint. Richly constructed, deeply engaging and gorgeously executed, "Parade," is a pleasant introduction. After the aforementioned "She's So Mean," the quartet dives into balladry with "Overjoyed," a tender and affecting valentine that anyone with a significant other can most likely relate to. True the lyrics are primed for adult contemporary charts and Hallmark cards, but then again, that's about all that one expects from this band.

North
's first mistake is the dance-oriented "Put Your Hands Up," a frustrating slice of filler that seems more geared towards the concert hall than a studio album. What makes "Put Your Hands Up," so frustrating is that foremost it sounds like a Rob Thomas solo effort and secondly, the band can do far better than this. As if one dance song wasn't enough, the quartet offers up "Our Song," and while it is slightly more believable and convincing than "Put Your Hands Up," it is weighed down by the saccharine lyrics.

From there, few mistakes are made. "I Will," is acoustic, tender and intimate. Anchored by piano and strings, this is certain to be a fan-favorite and easily one of the album's highlights. "English Town," utilizes piano and a placid opening and once again draws on Matt Serletic's clean production. Violins kick in at the 2:30 mark and the song goes from average to something worth remembering. If "English Town," deserves any criticism it's because horns enter the picture at the very end, but only in the final 15 seconds. Why on earth did the band use a soaring horn section for such a brief period? Why in the world were the horns not chiming in at the 3-minute mark?

No matter, the group steps forward on the synth-inspired "How Long," a playful and confident effort that trumps the disc's previous two dance-inspired efforts. The disc's apex though is "Radio," a horn-heavy splash of old-school rock that is arguably one of the best songs the band has ever written. It is also the first time on North the band sounds the most comfortable. Nothing feels forced, nothing feels over-the-top and lastly, nothing feels derivative. If only North had sounded more like this. Of the last three songs, the best two are the air-tight "The Way," in which Kyle Cook takes to the microphone, and the timeless "Asleep at the Wheel," a beautiful paean to America's penchant for complacency and one of North's finest efforts.

Though it is far from perfect and has far more filler than one would hope, North is indeed a fine effort. Seeing as how decorated a songwriter Rob Thomas is, there's plenty of reasons to think that North could be far better. In the end, that sentiment makes recommending North difficult. A band as celebrated and well-documented as them should not have only seven good songs. But alas, that is exactly what we have here with North. Furthermore, the idea of a follow-up to North seems all the more troublesome now. If they can't put together a dozen solid tunes right now, who's to think they can put together a dozen more the next time out?

North was supposed to silence all the questions and the critics. In the end, they've only made them more plentiful and louder. Maybe a comeback wasn't such a good idea in the end.

Recommended If You Like Rob Thomas' Cradlesong, VH1, Grey's Anatomy, swallowing your pride, Dishwalla's Opaline, Tonic's Sugar


FInd Them Here http://www.matchboxtwenty.com
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 29.
06:53 AM on 09/03/12
#2
renzenkuken
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Disagree, this album rocks.

I respect your opinion but starting off the review by marginalizing the entire band is an odd way to start. They aren't defined by their accolades or even their volume of sales, they're defined by their music... duh.

And their music has consistently gotten better... that's all that matters.
09:35 AM on 09/03/12
#3
Gregory Robson
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Disagree, this album rocks.

I respect your opinion but starting off the review by marginalizing the entire band is an odd way to start. They aren't defined by their accolades or even their volume of sales, they're defined by their music... duh.

And their music has consistently gotten better... that's all that matters.
I don't disagree with the last point. Each album has indeed gotten better. I've loved every single album, until this one. I'm hoping after repeated spins it will find its way into my soul. But for now, I only like about seven of the twelve. That's not a winner of an album to me. That's a disappointment.
11:27 AM on 09/03/12
#4
Light_Grenades
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I know that Exile on Mainstream had a "Greatest Hits" section, but it was really considered their fourth album.
11:29 AM on 09/03/12
#5
sakattack123
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I don't disagree with the last point. Each album has indeed gotten better. I've loved every single album, until this one. I'm hoping after repeated spins it will find its way into my soul. But for now, I only like about seven of the twelve. That's not a winner of an album to me. That's a disappointment.
I like your interview but this comment I disagree with. Sadly, I think liking 7 out of 12 songs is great for albums nowadays! Maybe that isn't a critique of your comment as much as the music industry! Good review and a good band, thank you!
12:19 PM on 09/03/12
#6
rocknroll365
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am i really gonna be the first one to say that he doesn't even know the name of the first album? this album is gonna pump out 4 or 5 top 20 radio hits and you're saying this won't quiet the critics? if by that you mean they won't be winning a grammy then i would agree, but i don't think that's what you mean. always will be a quality band, not sure why critics would be wanting them to prove that. oh well that's my opinon. seems like a well put together review though.
12:58 PM on 09/03/12
#7
sammyboy516
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I respect your opinion but starting off the review by marginalizing the entire band is an odd way to start. They aren't defined by their accolades or even their volume of sales, they're defined by their music... duh.

And their music has consistently gotten better... that's all that matters.

This. If popularity and number of awards defined a "good" band, very few bands covered in this site (or any site, really) would be "good."
12:58 PM on 09/03/12
#8
PopPunkKid
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I don't think this album is incredible, but it has a few pretty good songs. I agree about "Radio" being a great song and about "Put Your Hands Up" being pretty terrible... but I disagree about "Our Song". I think that's one of the strongest tracks on here.
04:25 PM on 09/03/12
#9
Craig Manning
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Good review, Greg, though I think I enjoy this album significantly more than you. These guys were probably my first "favorite band," and while they have obviously drifted from that list quite a bit (not releasing an actual album for a decade never helps), a well-executed Rob Thomas ballad still feels ridiculously welcoming to me. I think this album is solid - not perfect, and yeah, "Put Your Hands Up sucks, but I like everything else, and "Parade" is one of my favorite songs they've ever done. Actually wrote a review of this for the other site I write for, so I'll post a link in here shortly.

I know that Exile on Mainstream had a "Greatest Hits" section, but it was really considered their fourth album.

Definitely didn't count as a full-length. It was a "Best Of" with a few new songs: just about every band from their era has done that.
04:33 PM on 09/03/12
Steeeve Perry
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"She's So Mean" is possibly the worst song I have heard all year, the lyrics are garbage. And I'm an apologist for the new Green Day songs.
04:40 PM on 09/03/12
Steeeve Perry
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This. If popularity and number of awards defined a "good" band, very few bands covered in this site (or any site, really) would be "good."
Yeah, all of my favourite artists except The Beatles, Green Day, Kanye and maybe Radiohead would be considered terrible.
Modest Mouse, The Pixies, Tom Waits, Pavement, etc. They're not terrible, I'm almost certain.
04:56 PM on 09/03/12
Craig Manning
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"She's So Mean" is possibly the worst song I have heard all year, the lyrics are garbage. And I'm an apologist for the new Green Day songs.

If that's the worst song you've heard all year, I envy you.
05:41 PM on 09/03/12
Steeeve Perry
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If that's the worst song you've heard all year, I envy you.
Thanks! It's probably just because the first time I heard it the music video was playing on TV and I didn't know it was them, not being a huge fan (I know the singles and have heard a couple albums). I figured it was some new-ish band trying to write the corniest, dumbest pop "rock" song they could to break into the mainstream. When the song almost finished and Matchbox 20 flashed on the screen I could hardly believe it.
05:56 PM on 09/03/12
fowruok
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I used to love Matchbox 20 a whole lot, but "She's So Mean" is terrible, though catchy. I'll have to hear the rest of this, though.
06:20 PM on 09/03/12
Broden Terry
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I quite enjoy the record, but I would've loved to have seen more variation between the tracks. I realize that the band tried to incorporate a few dance oriented tracks predominantly within the middle stages to quicken the tempo and showcase another dimension to the album, but those tracks in question, "Put Your Hands Up" and "Our Song", just felt utterly uninspired.

"English Town" and "The Way" are probably my favorite tracks to this point, but I don't believe North is going to enter my end of year list when it comes time to preparing one, so overall it's a disappointment. I enjoy the record, but I was expecting more.
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