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Review: Matchbox Twenty – North
September 21, 2012
Like any good introduction, prologue, or overture, I’m a firm believer that the initial track of an album should set up the rest of the record and in doing so, it should stir something, whether that occurs as the result of a spine shiveringly souring vocal or a hook so catchy that an artist grasps you with both hands and holds you in a musical headlock for the remainder of the album. North, the latest release by Orlando pop-rockers Matchbox Twenty, unfortunately introduced itself with a slightly lack-lustre beginning in the form of the rather un-celebratory Parade, however, despite the rather modest opener, the latest offering from the Florida foursome has proven to be their highest charting album in the UK to date.
Since forming in the mid nineties, Matchbox Twenty (Originally Matchbox 20) have achieved massive success in the US and Australia, reaching the top of the album charts down under an impressive three times, and continuously earning platinum status worldwide with their three previous studio albums. After a decade deficient in solely new material, due to solo projects, tours and 2007’s compilation album Exile on Mainstream, the four piece are back with a sound that fortunately for Matchbox Twenty fans is reassuringly recognizable, however, for those listening to Matchbox Twenty for the first time, the album could seem ten years too late.
In spite of a relatively slow start, North gains momentum with ‘She’s So Mean’ the album’s first release, which pairs tales of a Bacardi chugging, ‘hardcore candy store’ of an angel with Summery, light-hearted guitar riffs and clap along percussion. With a pre-chorus that promises to stay defiantly in your head for days, She’s So Mean, amongst others, delivers all that a predominantly pop band should, and remains reliably radio-friendly throughout. Additional tracks to put a sprightly spring in your step are Put Your Hands Up and Radio (complete with intro strangely similar to Adam Ants’ Goody Two Shoes). Matchbox Twenty fans will be pleased to hear that Rob Thomas’ lead vocals are as smooth as the 1999 Santana collaboration of the same name, however any newcomers with a dislike for early U2-esque anthems may be slightly underwhelmed with tracks such as Sleeping At The Wheel, which delivers an arrangement not entirely distinct from the likes of Where the Streets Have No Name.
Albeit a very polished and musically competent album, North demonstrates the difficulty in returning to a contemporary audience after a lengthy hiatus, which is perhaps relatable to running into an old acquaintance you haven’t seen for years; you thrive on the nostalgia, but your conversation lacks anything current. The album is worth a listen, particularly for those with a penchant for pop-rock and soft-rock, as it effectively achieves the desired effect of a glass of warm milk; granted it’s pleasant but it’s not exactly refreshing.