The Good: Amazing lyrics, Good overall music, competent vocals
The Bad: Similar sounding tracks
The Basics: Definitely buy Yourself Or Someone Like You if you liked the four Matchbox Twenty singles that were on the radio! Buy with caution if you're prone to depression.
The first drum beats of "Real World," which open the Matchbox Twenty debut Yourself Or Someone Like You are enough to intimidate any listener, especially if that listener was expecting the more docile sounds embedded from the singles "Push" and "Back 2 Good." Matchbox Twenty comes on strong and, fortunately, they ease back on the noise level quickly. For those who did like the softer singles on the radio, most of Yourself Or Someone Like You is like that.
The moment they do ease back from the harsh drums, the album begins to shine because the songs are excellent. That is to say that it is easy to listen to this album and think that the band is trying too hard to be rock. Their best musical moments are in the slow ones, the opening to "Shame" ("What we've learned here's love tastes bitter when it's gone" - what a perfect line!), the whole of "Hang," "Damn." Unfortunately, the band appears to know when they've found the right thing and they have no problem repeating it over and over again. The best rocking the band does is in the lyrically straightforward "Long Day," the album's second track. "Long Day" is a more accessible track to all audiences because the lyrics are more audible, not drown out by the instrumentals.
Unfortunately, the album quickly becomes homogenized in the sound. The band is heavy on guitars, with the occasional piano. But outside those two instruments, there is no musical diversity here. The drums are strong, but the beats they create are just that; the drums can be used to express thoughts and feelings and make music or they can be used as a metronome. In this case, Paul Douchette, the drummer, is relegated to a placeholding spot in the band. The uninspired instrumentals slow down the recognition of how great the lyrics often are.
Outside of several of the songs sounding remarkably similar, the album is thematically cohesive almost to the point of being inbred. It's a wonderful album for when you're down and out or want to get depressed, but it lacks a real catharsis. That is to say, the album never gets out of the mire of loss and pain that envelop the listener. So, despite the heavy guitars and loud, beating drums, this is a somber album and it is unrelenting in the depths it brings the listener down into.
There's an obvious niche that Matchbox Twenty fills, though. Unlike the boy bands that exploded onto the scene around the same time and have endured just to whine into our ears on the radio, Matchbox Twenty is an adult group putting forth real music with great lyrics. The writing here is paramount and they have great instrumentals that they play themselves. It's refreshing to see a group with talent and an evocative musical message.
Rob Thomas' vocals dominate the debut and that's fine because he can sing and he clearly knows the songs he wrote inside and out. This is definitely a rock album and it rocks. Despite the thematic and musical weaknesses, it's a solid beginning. The best track is "Long Day" and the weakest link is "Busted."
For other rock albums, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Definitely Maybe - Oasis
Mer de Noms - A Perfect Circle
Mr. Wonderful - Fleetwood Mac
See how this album stacks up against others by checking out my index page here with my album reviews in ratings order!
© 2011, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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