Thomas makes sure you share his pain

By Sandra Sperounes, The Edmonton Journal

Rob Thomas seems like a nice man.

He's blessed with a strong, clear tone -- other vocalists always sing his praises -- and his precise phrasing is Matchbox Twenty's not-so-secret weapon, elevating their ordinary songs into memorable hits.

Not content to stay the course with the Atlanta pop-rockers, Thomas has decided to mess with the group's formula.

He's buzzed his hair like Justin Timberlake and recorded a solo debut, ... Something to Be, which is filled with catchy hooks but self-destructs under the weight of his vocal stylings.

Free of Matchbox's constraints, Thomas sings like a manic Henry Higgins -- exaggerating his words and breaths to MAKE SURE listeners will understand his PAIN as if lyrics such as "I don't wanna be lonely no more" and "I am the damage" aren't enough to get his points across.

It's a shame, really, because ... Something to Be's sonic palette uses more colours than any of Matchbox Twenty's previous albums -- an intriguing achievement, considering Thomas uses the group's same producer, Matt Serletic.

Streetcorner Symphony is a snappy, carefree number with blasts of trumpets and female soul singers.

Lonely No More employs a Latin rhythm and the hip-hop synth squeals popularized in House of Pain's Jump Around while My, My, My is a country-ish ballad with a lyrical nod to Collective Soul's Shine. "Let your bright light shine," sings Thomas.

I Am an Illusion rumbles with a rhythm of impending doom, horns and a bluesy African intro taken from a snippet of O Death by the late Bessie Jones, who was also sampled on Moby's breakthrough, 1999's Play.

All That I Am is wrapped in a mystical, ancient sash of Turkish strings, exotic wind instruments and pacifist sentiments: "I am the white dove for a soldier / Ever marching as to war / I would give my life to save you / I stand guarding at your door / I give you all that I am."

All That I Am could be haunting and gorgeous, but Thomas turns it into a bad musical theatre production.

You can almost see him slinking about a Broadway stage as Lawrence of Arabia or some such desert voyager, then raising his arms and eyebrows as a forlorn daduk -- a flute -- beckons from a yonder dune.

Next up: A collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Webber?

Hopefully not.

Thomas needs to strike up another album with his Matchbox mates.