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ISSUE 116 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/28/2003

Matchbox Twenty rocks over rivals

By Byron Vierk
Staff Writer

Friday, February 28, 2003

Bands like Matchbox Twenty and Third Eye Blind caused a pop rock revival in the late nineties, each group producing multi-platinum and hit-laden albums.

Since that time, both groups, especially Matchbox Twenty, have spawned legions of imitators, but no single group has ever been able to replicate the success that Matchbox Twenty and Third Eye Blind currently enjoy.

On their newest album, “More Than You Think You Are,” Matchbox Twenty not only produced a solid album, but proved why they are light-years ahead of their pop rock rivals both in talent and musicianship. The album is traditional Matchbox Twenty material: harder, more testosterone friendly rockers, mixed with thoughtful, though sometimes sappy, ballads. However, its the rock songs on “More” that drive the album. Every song with an edge on the album is turned up to eleven and powered by heavily distorted guitar and drum.

Rob Thomas, Matchbox'’s lead singer, always seems to write better lyrics when he has the help of a rock legend (see Santana’'s collaboration with Rob Thomas, “Smooth” and all the Grammys it won). On “"Disease”," the album’'s best song and first single, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones shares writing credit with Thomas. No wonder it rocks so hard.

Of course, Thomas hasn’'t lost his penchant for sappy little ballads, but he has finally learned what works and what doesn’'t in slow rock. “"Unwell,”" with its banjo licks and slide guitar, is a perfect rock ballad that almost hits Alan Jackson or Tim McGraw territory. The chorus is one of the best Thomas has written in years, and it flows along much better than Thomas’'s last major ballad, “"If You’'re Gone.”"

That said, the album is not all guitar fire and pop/rock passion. “"Bright Lights" sounds like every mid-tempo late 90’s rock song ever made, and its derivative nature sours the beginning of the album. “"Could I Be You"” has the same effect on the album’'s close, ending a string of good to great songs and making you wonder whether Matchbox Twenty has learned anything from its successes and failures.

Whether it's cathartic or not, “"The Difference"” is a fine song to close out the album. Rob Thomas’s voice has truly improved over the years, and his ability to finally convey the emotions he wants through his singing as well as his lyrics truly adds a new dimension to Matchbox Twenty.

Rob Thomas sings, “"For all you know/this could be/The difference between what you need/ and what you want to be.”" His band has all it needs to reclaim its spot atop the charts and at the forefront of the pop rock world it used to dominate. The question is, do they want to be more than the critics think they are?

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