ALBUM REVIEW: Matchbox Twenty’s ‘North’ an alright comeback for the band
Matchbox Twenty’s latest album, “North,” comes after a five-year break from the recording studio and 2007’s “Exile on Mainstream.”
Released on Sept. 4, the album offers listeners the band’s classic no-frills hard rock sound (diehard fans rest assured) but with new musical flavors around the edges.
“She’s So Mean,” the single release from June, is a no-surprises hard rock tune, leading off with an upbeat guitar hook and heavy drum riffs before a high-flying chorus. The overall sound is standard Matchbox Twenty, reminiscent of the guitar-driven feel of 2007’s “Let’s See How Far We’ve Come.”
“I Believe in Everything” has the same classic MB20 feel; it doesn’t sound overproduced, and if there are extra guitar tracks they’re hiding pretty well. There are no fancy tricks, and there’s nothing to hide. It’s just good old 1990s/2000s guitar rock.
While the band spends only a few tracks on developing a new sound, they do restate their old ideas in a new way across many parts of the album. Although “English Town” has a classic hard-rock chorus, the soft piano texture on the track appears to be Matchbox’s nod to a changing musical environment, a translation of their original 90s sound into a more present-day context.
On no other track is the band’s stylistic experimentation more evident than “Put Your Hands Up.” Moods move toward upbeat and electric, while the chorus’ funk-flavored groove features a sound that wouldn’t be out of place next to Maroon 5’s latest work, or even in the club. The rest of the track relies heavily on electric effects.
The same new ideas can be found throughout the album. “How Long?” has a staccato electric organ and piano throughout, and a chorus that lives just next door to modern country — if Rob Thomas sang it with an accent (or played steel guitar) it would almost be a hard country song. “Radio” feels like mashup of Little Richard and 90s rock.
Overall, the album is a good listen with a good amount of stylistic exploration. However, “North” is very much a “Matchbox Twenty” album in that for all its use of different genres it stays simple, direct and true to the band’s sound. For those looking for something straightforward, this is for you. For those looking for something more complex, challenging and edgy, there are other albums to be had.
That’s not to say the album isn’t worth a listen; the classic 90s feel of the band is always pleasant. “She’s So Mean,” “I Believe in Everything” and “Put Your Hands Up” are fun and catchy, and are sure to engage audiences in just the way Matchbox is looking for.
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