Matchbox Twenty refuses to fade

Copyright 2003 The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post

January 14, 2003, Tuesday


LENGTH: 540 words

BYLINE: Harry Rubenstein

HIGHLIGHT: Pop Goes the Disc


Matchbox Twenty

More Than You Think You Are

Matchbox Twenty will never be a darling of the critics, nor will it ever be considered an important band when the Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll is finally written. It'll probably get a sidebar, and that's about all it deserves. But for some reason, I think the band members will be okay with that. Matchbox Twenty's formula stays exactly the same on its third release, More Than You Think You Are - unabashed '70s arena rock songs blended with an early '90's rock esthetic.

On its blockbuster debut album, Yourself or Someone Like You, lead singer and chief songwriter Rob Thomas wore his heart on his sleeve, portraying himself as an emotionally obsessed sensitive rocker, much like his early arena rock contemporaries, Foreigner and Journey. The album sold millions of copies, and went platinum 10 times over. Most people expected the band to fall victim to the sophomore slump syndrome, but its second album Mad Season was another huge success.

The fact that Matchbox Twenty endured the wave of nu- metal and last year's rebel rock resurgence without compromising its sound is a testament to Matchbox's staying power. That the public continued to buy its albums despite the predominant music trends demonstrates how this band has touched a nerve with the listening public.

Thomas' passionate delivery is undeniable; this guy has felt pain and isn't afraid to sing about it. But the pain is digestible. Thomas' lyrics are non-threatening. He delivers hard emotions diluted for the masses. Most people can relate to "Not being crazy, just a little unwell," the ironically catchy line in "Unwell."

On "All I Need," Thomas channels The Traveling Wilburys, sounding like... well, Matchbox Twenty doing a Traveling Wilburys' song.

The remaining tracks on the album are primarily power ballads delivered with Thomas' strong voice and raw emotion. He has a way with hooks, and there is no lack of them on this album.

It would be easy to dismiss Matchbox Twenty as another rock act destined for used CD racks if it weren't for earlier pop glory like the Rob Thomas/Santana collaboration "Smooth," which won Thomas several Grammy awards. While REO Speedwagon and Foreigner faded away and became caricatures of themselves, Matchbox Twenty's future should be a bit more promising.