Power Chords: Matchbox Twenty Brings Latest Work To Town

"Our last album was our blue period, apparently," explains matchbox twenty's singer-songwriter Rob Thomas, who leads the band into the Pepsi Arena on Tuesday night. "Listening back to it now, it sounds like we were in our easy-listening phase."

Not that it was necessarily a bad thing. The band's 2000 sophomore album, "Mad Season," climbed to No. 3 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart, bolstered by the success of the No. 1 hit single, "Bent." The album also sold more than 4 million copies.

But, surprisingly enough, matchbox twenty's latest CD, "More Than You Think You Are," is a different animal altogether. The mainstream pop songs of "Mad Season" have been replaced with in-your-face rock tunes, right from the first power chords of the opening track, "Feel."

"After listening back to 'Mad Season,' I realize that songs like 'Bent' and 'Stop' from that album would have sounded very different -- they would have sounded more like rock songs -- if we had recorded them for this new CD," says Thomas. "But because of the way we made that record and where our heads were at at that time, they sounded really glossy. They sounded like pop-rock songs with the emphasis definitely on the pop.

"The songs on 'More Than You Think You Are' sound more like the way matchbox twenty sounds live, and that was exactly what we wanted to do with this album. We've had so many people who've come up to us after seeing us play live, and they've said that now they finally put all of the pieces together. They finally got what we're doing, what we're all about.

"We couldn't have made this record before, though. It's not like there was an ingredient that was missing that we've now finally discovered. It's just something that we've grown into. It took us a while to find that -- to get comfortable as a band and to find that space.

"Of course, we've been fortunate enough to have the time to do that, which is not a luxury that a lot of bands have. If our first album hadn't been successful, we never would have had the opportunity to really find our voice."

As everyone in the free world must already know by now, matchbox twenty's 1996 debut album, "Yourself or Someone Like You," was indeed wildly successful. The blockbuster album sold more than 12 million copies, yielding such omnipresent radio hits as "Real World," "Push," "3 AM" and "Back 2 Good."

"Every time we go into the studio to record a new album, we kind of want to try to start all over," says Thomas, who co-authored the new album's first single, "Disease," with no less a rock 'n' roll luminary than Mick Jagger. "When we did 'Mad Season,' we knew we didn't want to just make another 'Yourself or Someone Like You.' And we did it again this time around.

"With every record we've made, right before we go into the studio, we think we're going to want to kill each other and that we're never going to make another record again. But when we finished this record, we all looked at each other and said, 'Hey, that was great. This is what we should do with the next record.' "

matchbox twenty with Sugar Ray and Maroon5
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: The Pepsi Arena, 51 S. Pearl St., Albany
Tickets: $35, $42.50
BYLINE: Greg Haymes Staff Writer
The Times Union (Albany, NY)