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Music review: Matchbox Twenty "North" (with audio)

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(Courtesy photo)
"North" is Matchbox Twenty's first album of new material in 10 years.

It’s been 10 years since Matchbox Twenty last put out a full-length studio album of new material. But time apart as a band doesn’t seem to be an issue on “North.”

Frontman Rob Thomas wrote six of the songs for the new album on his own. On the first single, “She’s So Mean,” the band sounds a little more poppy than usual, but still enough like Matchbox Twenty not to alienate any longtime fans. The pop-infused vibe continues on “Put Your Hands Up” and “Radio.” Thomas took a similar approach on his solo albums and seems to be adding it to the Matchbox Twenty formula.

And why not? Thomas is a hit-maker, whether it’s on his own or with his band. It only makes sense to combine the two. Thomas probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a songwriter. No matter how radio-friendly a Matchbox Twenty song is, Thomas isn’t opposed to sneaking in lyrics that tell a well-crafted story. His ability helps set the band apart from Train and other similar-sounding mom rock playing from minivan speakers.

“I Will” puts Thomas’ lyrics on display as the band’s somewhat generic rock sound is pared down to a simple acoustic guitar and piano. It’s too bad this didn’t happen more on this release. No matter how great Thomas’ lyrics can be or how poppy the band can get, the songs on “North” fall back to being over-simplified rock.

Out this week: Animal Collective, “Centipede Hz”; Azure Ray, “As Above So Below”; Bellamy Brothers, “Pray For Me”; Raymond Byron and the White Freighter, “Little Death Shaker”; California Wives, “Art History”; Cat Power, “Sun”; Chick Corea & Gary Burton, “Hot House”; Cult of Youth, “Love Will Prevail”; Deerhoof, “Breakup Song”; Melissa Etheridge, “4th Street Feeling”; The Fresh & Onlys, “Long Slow Dance”; Ian Hunter & The Rant Band, “When I’m President”; Imagine Dragons, “Night Visions”; Ronan Keating, “Fires”; Mark Knopfler, “Privateering”; Land Observations, “Roman Roads IV-XI”; Mono, “For My Parents”; Bob Mould, “Silver Age”; Bill Ortiz, “Highest Wish”; Brian Setzer, “Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot! Live From the Planet”; Smash Mouth, “Magic”; Stars, “The North”; Dave Stewart, “The Ringmaster General”; Two Door Cinema Club, “Beacon”; Two Gallants, “The Bloom and the Blight”; Young Guns, “Bones.”

Out Sept. 11: The Avett Brothers, “The Carpenter”: Blaqk Audio, “Bright Black Heaven”; Kix Brooks, “New to This Town”; Calexico, “Algiers”; Bucky Covington, “Good Guys”; Daddy Yankee, “Prestige”; DMX, “Undisputed”; Bob Dylan, “Tempest”; Empress Hotel, “Heavy Halo”; Field Report, “Field Report”; Steve Forbert, “Over With You”; Nelly Furtado, “The Spirit Indestructible”; The Gaither Vocal Band, “Pure and Simple”; Jonny Greenwood, “The Master”; Harm “The Nine”; The Helio Sequence, “Negotiations”; Hoobastank, “Fight or Flight”; Patterson Hood, “Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance”; Kathy Mattea, “Calling Me Home”; Dave Matthews Band, “Away From the World”; Mint Condition, “Music @ The Speed of Life”; NOFX, “Self Entitled”; Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra, “Theatre Is Evil”; Lee “Scratch” Perry, “Master Piece”; Pet Shop Boys, “Elysium”; The Presets, “Pacifica”; The Raveonettes, “Observator”” The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, “The Magic Door”  Therapy?, “A Brief Crack of Light”; The Time Jumpers, “The Time Jumpers”; The XX, “Coexist”; ZZ Top, “La Futura”.

• Rob Carroll writes about pop culture and entertainment for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at rcarroll@shawmedia.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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