x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Matchbox 20 mix approaches for a welcome return

CD review: For the most part, North finds Matchbox Twenty retaining their tuneful strength while exploring interesting new directions.

Matchbox Twenty
North
(Atlantic)
***

When Matchbox Twenty regrouped in 2010 to record their first album in a decade, the American four-piece faced the dilemma of choosing whether to return to their successful middle-of-the-road rock sound or play catch up with what's happening at the moment. With North, they mix both approaches for a welcome return. The album's opener, Parade, reminds us of what made the group successful, with an acoustic verse swelling to a cathartic chorus, complete with the singer Rob Thomas' self-help lyrics urging us "to stick around". The lead single She's So Mean finds the group letting go of their trademark earnestness for a playful swagger. Things go a little pear-shaped in the album's dancey middle section: the limp funk of Put Your Hands Up won't cause Maroon 5 to lose sleep, and Our Song's eagerness to sound current achieves the opposite results. But the experimentation works in English Town, which sounds like a lost gem by The Killers, while The Way soars on the back of Coldplay-like guitar ripples. For the most part, North finds Matchbox Twenty retaining their tuneful strength while exploring interesting new directions.