Matchbox 20: Music gone right from love gone wrong

By Alan Back
Entertainment Staff

ARTIST: matchbox 20

TITLE: Yourself or Someone Like You

LABEL: Lava/Atlantic

Last quarter saw the release of the Lemonheads' latest album, Car Button Cloth--a disc that proved to be little better than mediocre. However, their tour mates, the Orlando-based group matchbox 20, have come out with a debut album that steals the show from Evan Dando and his crew. Yourself or Someone Like You is an engaging collection of tunes that make the most of life gone bad.

Lead singer and songwriter Rob Thomas apparently had more than a few bad breaks in his social life. His lyrics tell of the universal problems single people face: hooking up with the wrong person, getting ditched by the right one, or maybe even being the wrong person in the first place. What Thomas has done here is to take his blues and put them to some pretty catchy melodies that grab your ears and say, "Hey, come here."

Many tracks feature acoustic and electric guitars side by side, courtesy of Kyle Cook and Adam Gaynor. You can either build a song up or detract from it with such a pairing; in this case, it works rather well. At times, the combination lends an unusual country flavor, such as in "3 am."

Two of the songs really stand out musically. "Back 2 Good" has a slow feel and features a woodwind section that complements the band's sound beautifully. How often do you hear a bassoon, flute, and so on side by side with a rock lineup?

The other track that demands to be noticed is "Busted." Thomas stripped this one to the bone to make his point. He rips away the unncessary to reveal the naked soul of a man incapable of getting by without "a soul to feed upon." Very harsh and raw and scary.

The music shows a wide range of influences at work. Elements of bands such as Toad the Wet Sprocket, Live, and the Gin Blossoms come to the surface. On the last track, "Hang," one big question came to mind: is this matchbox 20 or Little Texas?

If there is a fault to this album, it is that the lyrics are so uniformly down in the dumps. Most of the music cranks merrily forward, with crisp, clean, tight melodies; some sunnier words would really go well with it.

Despite the somewhat gloomy words, though, Yourself or Someone Like You is a solid debut offering from matchbox 20. Think of it as musical therapy for a love life on the rocks, or think of it as rock that makes the best of a bad situation. Either way you look at it, this album is worth a listen--maybe even more than one.

(If you want to see this group live, they are scheduled to play the Atlanta Civic Center with the Lemonheads on February 15.)