Matchbox Twenty is definitely among one of the greatest pop/rock bands of the 1990s. Paced by the growling tones of Rob Thomas, the band deeply explored life's peaks and valleys through such great songs like 'If You're Gone' and 'Disease.' After 2003, the band took a hiatus as lead Rob Thomas embarked on a solo career on his own and in 2005, that became 'Something to Be,' Rob's successful first foray into solo artistry. With that, many of Matchbox's fans wondered if the three hits that came out of the solo effort would spell the end of the iconic pop/rock outfit.
Five years later, the band is still together. Instead of creating an entirely new album, they get their fans reuniting as well with a greatest hits album with a twist. The twist? 6 brand-new songs from the band, where despite it being the same tried and true formula that catapulted them to stardom, the sound has been tweaked invariably by Thomas himself who brought out his entire arsenal on 'To Be', namely the country and blue-eyed soul he put into the solo effort and transferred that to the rest of his band.
The first new track on Disc 1 is the radio-friendly single 'How Far We've Come,' which combines the famous take on power pop with a little soul in it, something Thomas learned to master in the two years while crafting 'Something to Be.' Skipping forward to the fourth track, 'These Hard Times'; the song finally gets their fans in touch with what got the band up on the big stage, the deep end-of-relationship angst and the valleys of life without being completely bleak and remaining in the end optimistic. Not many power pop bands go that route without sounding very pessimistic. Rob Thomas and Co. are masters at avoiding the trap many other bands that have come after them. The final track is the very much bluesy soul number 'Can't Let You Go,' which almost sounds like the band's answer to 'When The Heartache Ends.'
The second disc is a well-organized set of greatest hits, 11 in total ordered by album. This should get their fans back on their side after being abandoned for five long years. And that should have been worth the wait.
Now as for the overall album, hits aside, Disc 1 may as well give a glimpse into the future of Matchbox, which may start to fuse what Rob has taken in his foray into solo artistry into their well-oiled formula of power pop. The only weak spots were tracks 2 and 3 on Disc 1, where the execution of different styles on to their power-pop base didn't seem to mesh at all too well.
It's a start for the band and excellent thinking on their part to not pursue a full-length album without truly knowing if they still have their fanbase with them. Given how well 'How Far We've Come' is doing well on modern rock and Top 40 radio outlets, their fanbase has been quite patient, a rarity in today's 'What have you done for me now?' music world.
Name: "Exile on Mainstream "
Release Date: October 2, 2007
My rating: 4.6 out of 5
Alan Ho is the chief head of Musiqtone. You can reach him at email@example.com