Did you see that kids? Another multi-platinum band just narrowly escaped falling into oblivion after reaching the success it had always dreamed of. In Matchbox Twenty’s latest release, More Than You Think You Are, the band moves away from the heavy production of their last album and heads towards a steadier, more solid contemporary rock sound.
The potency in Thomas’ lyrics hasn’t dwindled, and with the band sounding tighter than ever, it’s no surprise that More Than You Think You Are is a very strong 13-track album (yup, an annoying hidden track). The songs move between up-tempo rockers full of distorted guitars (“Feel,” “Cold”) to mellower, piano driven pseudo-ballads (“Bright Lights,” “Hand Me Down”), occasionally falling somewhere in between.
The problem, if you need to find one, is that Matchbox Twenty has figured out the formula. They can pen this pleasing blend of mellow, emotional music: Start off with Thomas crooning about painful situations, rise in energy to an extremely catchy, almost flawless chorus, fall back to another verse, repeat chorus, enter guitar solo with increased energy, chorus, end. You’re getting 13 good songs, but you won’t find much diversity in the music. Each song sounds familiar from the first listen, but maybe because they are all building off of the foundation of “Long Day” from Yourself or Someone Like You. The pauses between songs sometimes just go unnoticed, each blending into the next. The ambiguity can be overcome given enough listens, but the bottom line is that there isn’t much variety.
In the two years since Mad Season, Matchbox Twenty seems to have focused more on what type of music they want to be making. There are no giant surprises on this album, either musically or lyrically. Rob Thomas is still writing about relationships and his feelings of being misunderstood, a man displaced in society. Despite tracks like “Unwell” with its dark lyrics, this album carries a lot of hope, embodied not only through Thomas’ lyrics but also the music. In “Downfall” the band invites a gospel choir to help them with their newfound optimism. And it works.
For many – and almost all previous fans of Matchbox Twenty – this album will be an enjoyable addition. Matchbox Twenty won’t be earning legions of new listeners, but they’ve definitely done their job to keep the old ones.