Review: Matchbox Twenty – North
Published on September 5th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
North: how’s that for a misnomer? I mean, it implies an upwards trajectory, which is more than a little disingenuous seeing as how it must have emerged from the bowels of hell.
The Orlando, Florida douche-rockers are back with their first album in five years and sound worse than ever, leading Rocksucker to wonder whether or not this constitutes craft-honing. At the very least, “Parade” confirms from the off that Matchbox Twenty are yet to reverse the creativity bypass they presumably underwent at birth; on the plus side, though, it should make them lots of lovely money and present plenty of syncing opportunities for the ‘sad’, Ross-Rachel-y bits of inane American sitcoms.
North is comprised almost entirely of overproduced, bloated bilge with a rotten corporate core, so middle-of-the-road that we can only hope it ends up as roadkill (did someone say “dead quail”?). “She’s So Mean” could only be described as Busted done by actual adults, and how disturbing is that? “She’s a hardcore, candystore, give-me-some-more girl” we are informed, and if she’s as mean as the title says then we can only assume it’s because she’s heard the song. It’s just horrendous, especially when the Rob Thomas’s warbly over-emoting spills over into a faintly Nickelback-esque growl-lite.
Sound good? Well, the delights keep on coming, folks! Or, rather, the nauseating clichés do. “Let me hold you, bay-BEH!” implores “Overjoyed” before going on to promise “I will tell you secrets nobody knows”. Our guess is that these secrets include the following:
1) He’s a robot.
2) He’s an evil robot.
3) He comes from another dimension, one where actual proper music reduces its inhabitants to steaming sludge puddles, like the Wicked Witch of the West or Christopher Lloyd in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
4) He will, given half a chance, eat your soul and crap it out the other side in the form of rubbish lyrics.
This is the soundtrack of a truly oppressed civilisation, so much so that, with hindsight, George Orwell needn’t have gone to all the trouble of writing Nineteen Eighty-Four: he could have just recorded this album. You can almost hear Bill Hicks saying “Here you go, America, listen to your Matchbox Twenty, watch your stories, go to bed, start all over again tomorrow.” Yes, not everything needs to strive to be ‘high art’, but if the chumps responsible for this – from the band through to the shameless record execs – could at least meet us halfway then we could yet fulfill Hicks’s envisioned stage of evolution where we’re exploring space together in harmony for eternity.
It’d take a while, sure, but you’ve got to do what little you can: put that wrapper in a bin, turn that light off, don’t leave the tap running while you brush your teeth, don’t pollute the world with vomitous fast-food music. Seriously, we need to start looking after our planet, starting with the musical straightjacketing of Matchbox Twenty.
We needn’t continue but we’ve hit a groove now so we will. “Put Your Hands Up” genuinely made this writer laugh out loud: with its synth flourishes and the line “We’re gonna burn the place down”, why, they probably think this is edgy. Imagine! To be fair, Thomas does reflect the listener’s thoughts on “Our Song” when he starts intoning “Oh no!”, while “I don’t know if someone else could handle me / I don’t know what I’m supposed to be” brings to mind more sarcastic retorts than Rocksucker knows what to do with.
“English Town” is funnily enough one of the less offensive songs here, although its brooding ambience is of course tarnished by Thomas’s endlessly objectionable voice. “Radio” is perhaps the finest display of the band’s own lack of self-awareness to date: “Come on now people, it’s all we got” and “We know it’s right, we heard it on the radio” unwittingly sum up this album’s disorder-suppressing properties far more concisely than our own attempts above, so hats off for that at least. Oh, and for the swinging brass section.
“This is the way you want it to be” declares “The Way” presumptuously. No, it’s not. Not any more. Let’s rise against, people, rise against! “I don’t really wanna give up”. Please do.
The line “I just want to make you go away” is included in the track “Like Sugar”. Enough said.
Rocksucker says: Have a Dead Quail!
North is out now on Satan’s own record label. For more information please stand in the middle of a busy motorway holding up a picture of the band in one hand and a cardboard question mark in the other.