Matchbox Twenty, North | Album Review
Following a 10-year hiatus, pop group Matchbox Twenty returns with ‘North,’ an effective and enjoyable comeback album.
Matchbox Twenty reunites to deliver their highly-anticipated fourth studio album, North. North arrives ten years after their last studio album. It’s an incredibly arduous task for a musician of any kind to return after a lengthy hiatus. One pro for the group is that frontman Rob Thomas has remained visible, releasing two solo albums. On North, the band stays true to themselves, but also know how to craft songs with sensibilities of the times. It doesn’t hurt that tried-and-true producer Matt Serletic is on board. The results are effective, making North quite enjoyable.
“She’s So Mean”
“Parade” opens the effort rhythmically with electric guitar lines. The sound is typical Rob Thomas, featuring the same signature songwriting, vocal nuances, and adult-alt sound. Vocally, Thomas sounds great, amplified further by sound vocal production. Strings add a nice sheen. If there’s one quibble, it’s the middle-of-the-road syndrome. It works pretty well, but lacks that ‘extra special something.’
“She’s So Mean” provides atonement the middling moments of “Parade.” The single instantly garners the listener’s attention. Highlighted by a sound drum groove and recurring tom-drum riff, the overall production is brilliantly crafted. The songwriting is top-notch, highlighted by several clever lines. Thomas sings of the ‘girl’ who the center of this tune, on verse two.
“You better get your shit together, cause she’s bringing you down, now.”
He goes on to state she’s willing to do anything:
“Cause she’s an uptown, get-around, anything goes girl…/ Drinks Bacardi in the morning till it goes to her head…”
No lyrics are catchier than the big-time chorus:
“Saying yea, and you want her / But she’s so mean (you’ll never let her go, why don’t you let her go).”
The perfect reintroduction, “She’s So Mean” is exciting, well-written, and extremely catchy.
“Overjoyed” follows, with a slower tempo compared to “She’s So Mean.” Clearly, “Overjoyed” aims for more adult contemporary status. Strings once more highlight this cut, as well as Thomas’ vocals. Much like “Parade,” it’s solid, but fails to reach the boil one hopes it would’ve. “Put Your Hands Up” atones for any improprieties. Exciting, possessing more bounce, it benefits from quicker tempo, prominent bass and rhythmic guitar, and a modern pop feel on the refrain. Add to the list of highlights its brevity.
“Our Song,” penned solely by Thomas, keeps the tempo quick. The use of synthetic elements creates a nice timbre, not to mention the vocal harmonies and pummeling drums. Catchy, the chorus highlights once more. “Oh no, I’m gonna be there always / After the pain has gone away/ The feeling is so strong/ This can be our song, this can be our song.”
“I Will” slackens the pace, but there’s still constant rhythmic motion keeping things moving. Thomas is initially accompanied solely by guitar, but gradually, more instruments enter. The timely addition of piano on the chorus is one of the wisest musical touches North. Expectedly, the chorus shines above the rest.
“English Town” opens moodily with a mysterious, ominous sound about it. The use of keyboard synths adds to the unique timbre, not to mention the chilly acoustic piano. Thomas’ vocals are restrained and dark at the onset. By the chorus and successive verse, he sounds less mysterious. It’s not the crème de la crème, but continues to exhibit consistency.
“How Long” initiates with bright, synthetic sounds. As always, Thomas shines, though “How Long” is B+ at best. “Radio” steals the show giving “She’s So Mean” a ‘run for its money.’ The rhythmic groove is established instantly and the sound is completely a contrast to everything else. Lightning quick and funky, given the use of horns within the production, “Radio” is a winner.
“Come on now people it’s all we got/we feel it in our hearts for sure/Like a song that’s been playing for all our lives/we know it’s right/we heard it on the radio.”
“The Way” slows things down, but doesn’t concede much energy. The sound is sunny. Aiming for an adult contemporary ‘nod’ here, it’s enjoyable. “Like Sugar” is reminiscent of “Lonely No More,” as well as the electronic trends of modern pop. It’s not a techno-infused Europop showing, but provides Matchbox Twenty a bridge to pop music a la 2012. The dark, minor key is highly effective. “Sleeping at The Wheel” concludes the effort more. Likened more to “Parade,” the rub is that the best material has already graced North. “Sleeping at The Wheel,” hence, feels more like the stepchild. It’s not bad, but lacks the distinction of the elite.
Overall, North is a welcome, well-crafted comeback album from Matchbox Twenty. It ‘gets the job done.’ It won’t propel the previous-generation band back into pop music royalty, but it serves as a pleasant reminder of their legacy.
Gems: “She’s So Mean,” “Put Your Hands Up,” “Our Song,” “Radio”
Matchbox Twenty • North • Atlantic • Release: 9.4.12
Photo Credit: Atlantic