ATLANTIC RECORDING COMPANY UNWELL | Matchbox Twenty’s new album falls short of expectations.
UNWELL | Matchbox Twenty’s new album falls short of expectations.

2/5 stars

Full disclosure: I love Matchbox Twenty. Maybe it’s because, growing up, they were constantly on the radio. I never bought any of their albums, but I know the words of so many of their songs. Or maybe it’s because Rob Thomas has one of the most attractive singing voices ever. Either way, this band has helped me through more than one dark night on Lau One when I’m all alone and slowly going mad.

So I was very excited to hear that the band had a new album out, North, their first since 2007’s Exile on Mainstream. But it doesn’t live up to my lofty expectations.

The first single, “She’s So Mean,” is probably the best song on the album. Like many (arguably better) songs before it, it’s about a girl who’s kind of a hot mess: She’s funny and needy and scattered. I don’t really understand why this character has become so common in pop music. Maybe women like to hear men sing about how they love them for all the crazy things they do.

Anyway, while this song won’t become a Matchbox Twenty classic, it’s enjoyable. It’s upbeat with an eminently danceable rhythm. I’ll probably throw it on my workout playlist.

Except that one song, the album is extremely bland. “Overjoyed” is a mediocre love song that shares a name with a much better Stevie Wonder hit. “Put Your Hands Up” is an unmemorable attempt at a dance hit. Thomas and the rest of the band almost sound bored on that track. It’s just too different from what they normally do.

“Our Song” continues the theme of uncreative song titles. It’ll probably get stuck in your head — “This can be our song; this can be our song” — but only because that’s literally half of the words in the song. I can guarantee that this will be no couple’s “song.” And this track kind of sums up the album as a whole: Each one is trying to hard to be “the song” without actually creating anything worthwhile.

I’m big on lyrics. I  lack the ability to draw, so my doodles in class are often just the words to whatever song is stuck in my head. Matchbox has gifted us with some gems that preach to my neurotic tendencies: “I think I’m just scared. Do I talk too much? I know this is wrong. It’s a problem.” Welcome to my life.

Maybe Rob Thomas’s life is just too together now. Maybe he’s a grownup and has it all figured out. That’s fine, but something in his life has to be more compelling than begging people to “put [their] hands up” over and over again.

It’s not a bad album; it just isn’t particularly good. These songs will still get played on the radio (or show up on your Pandora stations, as the case may be).

For example, The eighth track, “How Long,” is an unremarkable yet enjoyable song about a guy who’s wondering how long the object of his affections will make him wait. It’s cute but — once again — very repetitive.

And that’s really the best way to describe the album as a whole: unremarkable and repetitive but still enjoyable. It’s probably good study music, with nothing exciting to distract you. But is it a good album? Sadly, it’s not. When it comes on Pandora, just click “I’m tired of this track.”

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