Matchbox Twenty: ‘North’ review

'North' sounds disappointingly dated as it goes through the motions of mimicking other artists

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Released 2 Sep 2012 | | Rating: 2-5
Matchbox Twenty: ‘North’ review

Matchbox Twenty are back with their first studio album in 10 years. A creative sabbatical of that length would ordinarily mean evolution and growth for a band's sound. That's not the case here.

'North' is a dated collection of tracks that feels more at home in the 1990s than it does in 2012. Had it been released back then, it would likely be lauded as a strong addition to the Matchbox Twenty catalogue; but this a decade or so later and there's a feeling of stagnant creativity. When Matchbox Twenty aren't lost in the 90s, they're mimicking today's artists to unnerving degrees.

MB20's new album opens strongly with 'Parade', a song that aches between every pick of the guitar and clash of drums. 'Parade' takes the best of the MB20 sound and brings it into a more modern setting, so it's a shock to the system when the rest of the album plays through in a strange, lurid confusion of pastiche.

'She's So Mean' carries the whiny heft of bland pop-rock packaged up in a Katy Perry-lite chorus. The only problem is that while it would suit Katy, it feels distinctly like Matchbox Twenty's play for commercial success, which is a common theme through the record. There's never a sense that this is an authentic album from the group; it feels like a grab for a place in an industry that has moved on quickly in the past decade.

In an album full of embarrassingly outmoded melodies and lyrics, the worst offender is the track 'Put Your Hands Up'. The fist-pumping 'anthem' feels like a drunken wedding band trying to get 'down with the kids', but at just under three minutes, it's a refreshingly brief misstep in a muddled collection. It's the only moment that feels brisk in an agonisingly drawn-out album.

If there's one positive to take from 'North', it makes you long for the glory days of heartbreaking vocals and lyrics that validated all of your adolescent misery. Unless you are a fanatical MB20 fan, steer clear of this album and head south.

Listen to 'Parade' below: