Release Date: 11.19.02
Record label: Melisma/Atlantic
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
Who Do They Think They Are?
by: bill aicher
If the late 90's and early 00's had an award for the band most able to milk its recordings for popular radio singles, matchbox twenty would have been a strong contender. Over two albums the band managed to put forth at least seven singles with unbelievably strong radio staying power, a rare feat for a group of Floridian post-grunge rockers. And, as if this popularity amongst the masses wasn't enough, lead singer Rob Thomas's unavoidable work on Santana's 1999 comeback single "Smooth" sure was.
In late 2002 matchbox twenty returned once again with their third studio outing, More Than You Think You Are, a record which finds the band struggling to discover just what it is they are really trying to do with their music.
On the album's first single, "Disease" (co-written with none other than Mick Jagger), the band smartly nods to his success with "Smooth" with a leading riff unmistakably similar to the Spanish guitar that barraged the airwaves so much in '99. It rocks far harder than anything the band's put to radio before, but not so much as the album's blaring opener "Feel."
Still, even with these instances of "rockness," the most notable change with More Than You Think You Are is the band's attempts to not be pigeonholed as an arena rock band. This is made abundantly clear on the album's third track, "Bright Lights" - a song that opens like it's Elton John and ends like it's The Bealtes, and manages to sound just like a matchbox twenty song somewhere in between.
There are instances of this reach for credibility among their critics throughout the album. "Unwell" features a catchy banjo intro, but then falls into the formulaic "cut out everything but the vocals then bring it all back in for the chorus" that's worked so well for matchbox twenty in the past.
And this is where the biggest problems with the album truly come into play. Sure, matchbox twenty has never been hugely popular with the critic crowd, but its fans have never felt alienated. Not that they're likely to be alienated with More Than You Think... either, but in the end what we're left with is an arena rock band trying not to sound like an arena rock band, which ends up sounding like an arena rock band that doesn't want to sound like an arena rock band.
But that's what matchbox twenty's been so good at for so long, and while it's usually great to see a band trying to move on from where it's been, sometimes it's best to just build on from what you know. If you're going for the "credibility" route, you need to find your own niche - not remake what's made other bands so legendary.
Matchbox twenty definitely have it in them to make another great matchbox twenty album, something they can really call their own. Just take a listen to "All I Need" or the sure-fire emotional hit single "Bright Lights" and you'll be convinced once again that this is a band who knows how to make a great pop rock song. The only problem is, this time around they lost a bit of who they are along the way. 13-Feb-2003 4:04 PM