Sunday, September 4, 2011

Matchbox Twenty Ekes Toward Perfection With Mad Season By Matchbox Twenty

The Good: Generally more polished than debut, good lyrics, good vocals
The Bad: Occasionally cluttered instrumentals
The Basics: An overall solid album, a good buy for anyone who loves brilliant lyrics. There's no denying the emotion and depth of this album!

Sophomore albums always receive more scrutiny than the debut, especially when the debut was such a monster of a hit as MatchBox Twenty's Yourself Or Someone Like You (reviewed here!). The fact is, following up on an album that had no less than four hit singles and was one of the first diamond certified albums is pretty intimidating. The men of MatchBox Twenty don't let the pressure get them down and, in fact, on Mad Season By Matchbox Twenty, they show they're up to the task.

This album continues doing what the band did best on the debut; presenting the excellent, empathetic lyrics of Rob Thomas. Indeed, the simple act of falling out of love is never quite so well captured in music today as in "Rest Stop." Thomas writes such simple, evocative lines that when put to music create extraordinary songs. The longing and loss of "Rest Stop" is a perfect example, "So I thought - hell if it's over / I had better end it quick / Or I could lose my nerve / Are you listening - can you hear me / Have you forgotten?"

The album shows development of the band in that the other members stand out more on backing vocals, instrumentals, and even writing (drummer Paul Doucette co-wrote "Stop"). The guitars on "Mad Season," for example, show quite a bit of growth over the simple chords of "Push" from their debut.

Mad Season By MatchBox Twenty contains much of the same depressing themes of the debut, but with more musical variety. First off, they utilize a much greater range of musical instruments. "You Won't Be Mine" uses violins and pianos and the song sounds different from anything else the group has done. All of the songs are rock, but the spectrum of rock they make use of is broader. That is, most of the songs sound very different from each other.

The group generally has a more polished sound and on "Mad Season" they manage to achieve perfection. That is, the single "Mad Season" is a perfect song. That song expresses perfectly the feelings of loss and confusion that comes when a relationship is on the rocks or over. Lyrically it is ambivalent enough to be about other things as well, including death and divorce. The power of Thomas' lyrics, like any good poet, are they may often be interpreted beyond the literal.

The album is doing more than carrying out a tradition established in the debut. Instead, it is expanding the scope of Matchbox Twenty's repertoire while remaining true to the underlying themes of the band. So while "Leave" expresses a great deal of the loss and anger that Yourself Or Someone Like You was known for, it would not fit on that album. "Leave" illustrates greater maturity and lyrical proficiency. It's just one example of the band's growth.

What prevents the album from being perfect, outside the lyrical dud "Bed Of Lies" is that, in their effort to make rocking songs, the band goes overboard. "Black And White People" and "Stop" especially are auditory jumbles, not quite sure of what they are or what they are supposed to be saying. Lyrically they are generally strong, but the music that backs the lyrics up is confused and, well, just loud.

It's easy to look at front man Rob Thomas and say that he is MatchBox Twenty, but the truth is, on this album, he needs his friends and they deliver for him, for the most part. Paul Doucette is easily one of the hardest working drummers in the business. If they continue to work together in the same positive directions they are heading, Mad Season By Matchbox Twenty seems to point toward the band reaching perfection with the next album. It's just not there yet.

Best track is easily "Mad Season" and the weak link is "Bed Of Lies."

For other rock bands, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Future Games - Fleetwood Mac
Greatest Hits - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Forty Licks - The Rolling Stones


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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