North is Matchbox Twenty’s first original album in ten years, since the release of More Than You Think You Are in 2002. Since then, Rob Thomas has focused on his solo career, and the band released their retrospective album Exile on Mainstream. So with such a long time in the making, fans of Matchbox Twenty would have high expectations of the new album. However, North may not live up to the fans expectations.
The album begins with “Parade,” a generic Matchbox Twenty song that is sure to become a classic. This is what my expectations were for the rest of the album. “She’s So Mean” is the first single off the album, which anyone who listens to commercial radio stations would have heard being overplayed. It is extremely catchy, and will only take a few plays to know every word to the song. After the upbeat “She’s So Mean,” “Overjoyed” unexpectedly slows the pace down. It sounds like it would have been a typical break up song; however the lyrics are sweet and is sure to be a fan favourite.
This is where the album changes. “Put Your Hands Up” is an upbeat single that features voice distortion mics. It is more of a dance mixed with pop/rock song and an example of the band experimenting with a new genre of music. This track had me hoping that the remainder of the album wasn’t going to follow suit. “Our Song” definitely kept me worrying; however it was an improvement on “Put Your Hands Up.” The chorus is very catchy, with a beat you can clap along to and the phrase “this could be our song” repeated, making you want to sing along.
After the two upbeat songs, it’s a relief to hear “I Will.” It starts off as simple acoustic guitar, with interesting lyrics that are telling a story rather than trying to be catchy. Ballads like this are often filler songs on albums; however “I Will” is a standout track, perhaps because it isn’t overly commercial and overdone. “English Town” starts off with soft piano; however the strings are an unexpected feature in the chorus, and build after the third verse. “How Long” came across as being produced better than some other songs, even if the lyrics are a bit predictable. “Radio” has a 1950’s feeling with a catchy hook in the chorus. (“We know its right; we heard it on the radio”). “The Way” is confusing as you quickly realise it’s not Rob Thomas singing, in fact it is guitarist Kyle Cook. He is a surprisingly good vocalist that perhaps should feature in more songs in the future. “Like Sugar” is an interesting mix of keys and guitars, however like their other songs, the chorus is catchy. “Sleeping At The Wheel” completes the album. It is another slow, downbeat song that perhaps should have been earlier in the album, as “Like Sugar” had a stronger ending.
The deluxe album offers three bonus songs. “I Believe in Everything” perhaps should have been included in the actual album. It is a rock song that easily sounds like other songs produced in the past. “Straight For This Life” begins with harmonies and is an acoustic song that sounds like it could have had more instruments included in it if it was worked on more. “Waiting On A Train” is a very commercial track that definitely should have been on the album, however it provides a strong ending to the deluxe album.
Overall the album does experiment with new directions, and doesn’t have songs as strong as hits that have been released in the past. Fans of Matchbox Twenty will definitely purchase it, however it may take a few plays to grow on you.
Review Score: 7.0 out of 10.