Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Matchbox Twenty Primer"
I was never a fan until I heard the acoustic version of "Push" on a Star 98.7 holiday sampler. You remember Star 98.7, don't you? Where Ryan Seacrest got his start paired with Lisa Foxx? She kept giving him a hard time for being so metrosexual. To think that if it weren't for "American Idol" most people would have never known Ryan. Then again, his will was irrepressible. The most talented people don't succeed, but those who want it most, and learn how to play the game.
The studio version never did anything for me. Unfortunately, there's not an easy link to the Star 98.7 acoustic take, but you can check this one out here:
When it's acoustic, without all the accoutrements, the lyrics shine:
"And I don't know if I've ever been really loved
By a hand that's touched me
And I feel like something's gonna give
And I'm a little bit angry, well"
Insecurity. I'm riddled with it. It's the curse of being human. Some cover it up, but are we really loved, do people really care about us, especially those not related by DNA?
And it makes us so angry!
"Push" is a masterpiece. And either you know this already or you will now, after giving it a second chance, especially in this acoustic take.
Meanwhile, listen to that intro guitar on the studio take. Whew, it puts you right in the mood, it enthralls you!
BACK 2 GOOD
And then comes this. How do we get it back to good?
It's impossible. There's something that goes down in a breakup, it's what's said, but even more it's the disconnection, and the feelings that seep in, that it's done.
I wish I could get so much back to good in my life. "Back 2 Good" is a bit subtle, but listen to it alone, especially at night, at home, and you'll get it.
It almost sounds like early period Beatles, at least the intro, come on, work with me.
And then the way the song breaks down after getting intense.
And then there's the hooky chorus, you can't help but sing along, come on, IT'S BEEN A LONG DAY!
The acoustic intro enraptures you, the song is a romp, not in your face, but a road trip that you're eager to go on.
The changes, the lyrics, Matchbox Twenty's minor work isn't.
Come on, 3 AM! The mood is instantly set!
This is the first cut from the band's second album. It didn't quite live up to the hype. And the expectations were so high, all four of the previous cuts were hits on the first album, Matchbox Twenty was a giant MTV act before the generations changed and the boy bands usurped their throne.
"Bent" was a disappointment upon release, but it's quite good with distance. Especially when you go through the roller coaster of the changes.
IF YOU'RE GONE
This was the second single. And it's better than "Bent," but it's quiet and it's anathema to start the campaign for a rock group's new album with a ballad.
Well, at least the song starts off slow and quiet, but it amps up in the chorus. It may be girl-centric, but sensitive guys can get it too.
And then there's this, the title cut from the second album, my favorite from that disc, because of the way it twists and turns, it's impossible to keep your body still when you listen to it.
And then there was a third album, in 2002, two years after "Mad Season."
This was the hit.
The verse is nothing special, but the chorus is hooky as usual.
Then there were a couple of Rob Thomas solo albums, and another group album, but no one really cared, because the nineties were done, we were in the Internet era and Matchbox Twenty was made for a different world, when we lived in a monoculture and we were all aware of what was a hit and heard tracks long enough to grudgingly accept their quality.
Then again, Matchbox Twenty's quality declined.
Then again, how do you follow up such massive success?
And massive success begets backlash, especially when the acts were not just faces, when they wrote the songs and played them too. Rob Thomas became one of the most hated men in music, because he got fat and married a model and didn't evidence enough hubris.
Then again, the band did change its name from "Matchbox 20" to "Matchbox Twenty." Huh? I mean I've heard of making monikers shorter, from Grand Funk Railroad to Grand Funk, from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Creedence, never mind CCR, what was the reason for this? Accept your success, don't demand we change to fit your vision of yourself, not if you want our attention.
And then there was that Santana hit, "Smooth," which Thomas cowrote and performed on, which was overplayed on television. Rob's ubiquity trumped his talent.
And then it was done. That's what performers can never accept, that their time will be over. That the scene and audiences change and suddenly you're yesterday's news instead of today's hitmaker.
But Matchbox Whatever were truly talented, they made memorable music, just listen...