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Matchbox Twenty
Multi-platinum selling band Matchbox Twenty (M20, originally Matchbox 20) announced the release of their fourth album in 2007 to much surprise. With five years, successful solo careers, and the departure of a member since their previous release, not many anticipated a new album from one of the most influential new rock bands of the last decade. Like all surprises, this one too was met with apprehension. Was the band still as good as it had been on its previous albums? Were their solo careers and egos going to clash with the making of this new release? And what does this new album mean for M20?

The Record has the answers for you with an in-depth look at the band’s career and the latest album Exile On Mainstream.

Yourself Or Someone Like You
It was 1996 when a little known band called Matchbox20 from Orlando, Florida, released its solo album Yourself Or Someone Like You. The underappreciated single Long Day was released to radio airplay only, but the band’s breakthrough single was the hit Push. Fans didn’t seem to mind the rather dismal lyrics about pushing a woman around and dragging her down coupled with a video replete with shades of blue and grey, a puppet on a string, barb wire, and leather-clad lead singer Rob Thomas as a human scarecrow. The song was a smash hit and, along with follow up singles 3 a.m., Real World, and Back 2 Good, propelled the album to sell over 12 million copies, earning Thomas, drummer Paul Doucette, guitarist Kyle Cook, bassist Brian Yale, and rhythm guitarist Adam Gaynor a cult fan following around the world.

Famous for its live shows, the band toured for years. Their newly acquired star status only pushed the band to work harder and give their fans more than their money’s worth. While many performers tend to disappoint at live shows (lacking the benefits of studio comforts and re-takes) one of M20’s most endearing qualities was the simplicity of their music ~ while the lyrics and themes were often dark, the songs were meant to be performed with as little pretension as possible. Matchbox20 were genuine, honest, and a departure from the manufactured, bubblegum pop groups that were also making their presence felt on the charts at around the same time.

Thomas was perceived as the star of the group from early on, writing every song on the album. In 1999, he collaborated with songwriter Itaal Shur to pen Smooth for Carlos Santana, which went on to be one of the biggest songs of the year. Smooth highlighted Thomas’s diversity and was a song that was both a completely different sound from that of M20 and a hit record in its own right. Those who hadn’t paid much attention to the band before Smooth began to sit up and take notice.

Solo Success
The band used their time apart to pursue individual interests. Cook reunited with his high school band mates and played guitar for The New Left, releasing the EP Let Go together. Doucette composed the soundtrack for the short film Just Pray and the Nickelodeon film Shredderman Rules, and has a solo project called The Break And Repair Method. Gaynor left the band in 2005 and is co-managing the band Electric Crush, whose fourth album he is also producing. Thomas has had the most success in his solo career. Released in 2005, his solo album …Something To Be debuted at #1 on the Billboard chart, making it the first time in the chart’s history that a male artist from a pop or rock group has debuted at the top with his debut solo album. The lead single Lonely No More earned Thomas a Grammy nomination in 2006 and was in the Top 10 on the Billboard singles chart, and Thomas embarked on a hugely successful tour across the US.

Exile On Mainstream
Many thought the band had called it quits after More Than You Think You Are and Thomas’s astounding solo success, and Gaynor’s departure had just seemed to confirm the rumours. The only thing it seemed possible to expect now was a greatest hits collection, and more than 10 years after their debut, Matchbox Twenty announced its long overdue release ~ with six new songs to accompany the old favourites.

“Paul and I had a sense going in that this was our last record,” says Thomas. “It seemed like a good one to go out on. We’d do a greatest hits album and put one new single on it. We got together, we fought, we laid all our stuff out about what was important to us now, and we started to write. And suddenly it was like, ‘This is fun, maybe we should do a new album.’ So we ended up with the best of both worlds.”

The result is Exile On Mainstream, a long awaited new release for die-hard Matchbox Twenty fans a perfect collection for someone who hasn’t heard them before. While it features all of the band’s biggest hits from their previous three albums, it doesn’t necessarily feature their best work ~ Yourself Or Someone Like You’s Hang, Mad Season’s Last Beautiful Girl, Leave and Bed Of Lies, and More Than You Think You Are’s All I Need are missing. But Matchbox Twenty have created so many exceptional songs it would be impossible to feature them all in just one compilation. For new listeners, the greatest hits CD is just a sample of the best of M20 that would hopefully compel some to listen to some of the band’s other tracks that were never released as singles.

With the new body of work, Matchbox Twenty has created songs that are a blend of the old and the new. The album contains both ballads and up-tempo songs that are musically mainstream, but Thomas’s vocals have taken a turn to the raw and emotional sound that first drew fans to the band. “Lyrically, we decided to go with a lot less,” Doucette says. “To really just get to the point of what we’re trying to say and what’s the simplest way to say it.” It’s this simplicity that takes the band back to its roots while making one major change in the process ~ personal successes aside, Doucette, Yale and Cook were all involved in the songwriting process from the very start. “I don’t think we could have gone on if we didn’t change the dynamic of the band,” Doucette says. “Matchbox Twenty was a little bit Rob and his overly outspoken background band. Now it’s Rob, Kyle, Paul, and Brian. I’d become a writer over the years; Kyle had become a writer. It started to become an issue while making the last record. It got to a point where it was like, well, if we’re going to be a band, this needs to really be a band. We’d worked with different people, we’d really developed our own sounds, and they’re very different from each other. We just felt like we each have that separate space to get ourselves out, so why don’t we make Matchbox something where we all have an equal say.”

You can read the rest of our feature on Matchbox Twenty in the November 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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