Matchbox Twenty – The Matchbox Twenty Collection (2013) [FLAC 24bit/44,1-96kHz]

Matchbox Twenty – The Matchbox Twenty Collection (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1-96 kHz | Time – 04:58:15 minutes | 4,6 GB | Genre: Alternative
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Atlantic Recording Corporation

Upon the release of their debut album, “Yourself or Someone Like You”, in fall 1996, Matchbox Twenty was pigeonholed as one of the legions of post-grunge guitar bands that roamed the American pop scene in the middle of that decade. At no time did the record top the charts, but it was always around, a staple of modern rock, adult alternative, and Top 40 radio alike. Matchbox Twenty was omnipresent because they managed to blend the structure and sentiment of ’70s arena rock with ’90s hard rock, thereby winning a large audience by seeming simultaneously classicist and modern. They were a little more classicist than modern, but that’s the reason why they became America’s most popular rock band of the late ’90s – even if nobody quite realized they had achieved that status. “The Matchbox Twenty Collection” is the full band’s discography released as digital box set in 2013.

Matchbox Twenty – Yourself Or Someone Like You (1996/2012) [Deluxe Edition]
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 59:27 minutes | 1,35 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Yourself or Someone Like You turned out to be the standard-bearer for post-alternative rock because it has a ’90s sheen in its production, but, for all the world, its core sounds like classic rock. Lead singer/songwriter Rob Thomas adopted some of Eddie Vedder’s vocal mannerisms, but they were smoothed out, lacking the angst and pain that were Vedder’s hallmark. Matchbox Twenty functioned much the same way, picking up at Pearl Jam’s fascination for album rock, but deciding to stick to the classic blueprint instead of personalizing it. All of this resulted in a record that is much more straightforward than most alt-rock albums, even if it follows the pattern of a classic ’90s album – not just in its production dynamics, but down to the acoustic-based slow number that closes the record. It blends the most familiar elements of the two golden eras of album-oriented rock, finding a balance that is comfortable for mainstream fans of either side. Other bands with similar sounds that could have done the same thing, yet Matchbox Twenty distanced themselves from the pack with sturdy songs and fairly strong hooks, all delivered forcefully with Thomas’ distinctive bravado. Their music is not flashy, nor is it as ingratiating as Third Eye Blind’s pop instincts. It is, however, solid, American rock, reminiscent of a blend of Petty and Pearl Jam. So, it shouldn’t have been surprising when the album found a wide audience. For many observers it was still unexpected, because the sound seemed a little plain. What they didn’t realize was that Yourself or Someone Like You wound up being the point where mainstream American rock stopped being willfully eccentric and returned to being unassuming and kind of ordinary.

01 – Real World
02 – Long Day
03 – 3AM
04 – Push
05 – Girl Like That
06 – Back 2 Good
07 – Damn
08 – Argue
09 – Kody
10 – Busted
11 – Shame
12 – Hang
13 – Push (Acoustic) [Bonus Track]
14 – Busted (Live From Australia) [Bonus Track]
15 – Shame (Acoustic) [Bonus Track]

Matchbox Twenty – Mad Season (2000/2012) [Deluxe Edition]
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 68:31 minutes | 855 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

On Yourself or Someone Like You, Matchbox Twenty’s ability to craft sturdy, mainstream rock was overshadowed by their reliance on loud guitars, colorless production, and bombastic vocalizing. They trade that sound for a varied, accomplished, smooth production on their second album, Mad Season. Throughout this record, Matchbox Twenty seem unashamed that they sound their best when they’re simply a mainstream rock band. They exploit this strength by expanding the production, adding horns and layers of keyboards to their sound, opening up the mix, and emphasizing their melodies. That shift in direction may disarm some fans of the debut, which was pretty much just guitars, but the band winds up with a big, bright, shiny album that’s livelier than its predecessor. That alone makes Mad Season more engaging than the debut, but the real surprise is the group’s growth as craftsmen and Rob Thomas’ progression as a songwriter and singer. Prior to this album, Thomas had a tendency to oversell his songs, not just in the delivery but in the writing, and the band followed him along. Here, they tone down their performances and while the end result is heavily produced, the overall feel is more relaxed and welcoming than the debut. Of course, it also helps that they have a solid set of songs – a set that eclipses their previous effort, even if there are a few dull moments here and there. Even with those occasional missteps, the end result is a strong, unabashedly mainstream record that finds the band coming into their own.

01 – Angry
02 – Black & White People
03 – Crutch
04 – Last Beautiful Girl
05 – If You’re Gone
06 – Mad Season
07 – Rest Stop
08 – The Burn
09 – Bent
10 – Bed Of Lies
11 – Leave
12 – Stop
13 – You Won’t Be Mine
14 – You Won’t Be Mine (Orchestral Reprise)
15 – You & I & I [Bonus Track]
16 – Suffer Me [Bonus Track]
17 – Never Going Back Again [Bonus Track]

Matchbox Twenty – More Than You Think You Are (2002/2012) [Deluxe Edition]
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 62:00 minutes | 791 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

The best proof that Matchbox Twenty is not the Rob Thomas project? Their third album, More Than You Think You Are. If this was simply the work of Thomas, this album would likely be more like their very fine second album, a savvy mainstream pop record that casually displayed his songwriting skills and was casually eclectic. This? This sounds like the effort of a band who not only wants to rock again, but feels compelled to rock again, to prove that they are indeed a band. Perhaps this would have worked if they had either a strong set of songs or a sinewy, persuasive production. They have neither. The songs lack hooks, as if melody would be too commercial, while the production has its sights on the radio, resulting in tuneless songs that are polished for mainstream consumption. It’s a weird miscalculation, a regression to the faceless post-alternative rock of their debut. It’s a shame, really – as the years since Yourself or Someone Like You have proven, no matter how disparaged they were in 1996, they did this post-alternative mainstream rock thing better than many bands, because they didn’t hesitate to embrace the mainstream. Here, they try for credibility and lose the very things that proved their strengths in the past.

01 – Feel
02 – Disease
03 – Bright Lights
04 – Unwell
05 – Cold
06 – All I Need
07 – Hand Me Down
08 – Could I Be You
09 – Downfall
10 – Soul
11 – You’re So Real
12 – The Difference
13 – So Sad So Lonely
14 – Tired [Bonus Track]
15 – Don’t Let Me Down (Live From Australia) [Bonus Track]
16 – Disease (Acoustic) [Bonus Track]

Matchbox Twenty – Exile On Mainstream (2007/2012) [Deluxe Edition]
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1/96 kHz | Time – 65:52 minutes | 1008 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Say this for Matchbox Twenty – they’ve gotten better the longer they’ve stuck around. And that’s not just their music, either: they’ve dropped the pretense of spelling their name as matchbox 20, they’ve gone away from cumbersome album titles, and they’ve embraced their status as MOR rockers. All of this is evident on Exile on Mainstream, which is not only the first of their albums to bear a simple yet clever title, it’s a collection of hits that traces their progression into a good, solid mainstream band and is also buttressed by an EP that finds them livelier than ever. Bolder, too, especially on the rockabilly of “I’ll Believe You When” and the slow oldies beat of “Can’t Let You Go,” which are light and dexterous in a way they’ve never been before. These are balanced by a few cuts that don’t stretch quite as far, but the propulsive pop “If I Fall,” charging anthem “How Far We’ve Come,” and earnest ballad “These Hard Times” are smooth, accomplished mainstream pop that are better constructed in every respect than their earliest hits. That much is evident by this EP’s juxtaposition with the 11-track greatest-hits disc, which has all their big radio hits presented in chronological order. There are a few minor hits missing – “Angry,” “Last Beautiful Girl,” “Downfall,” none of which climbed that high on the charts – so this has everything that a modern rock or adult contemporary radio listener would know, and the striking thing about listening to the disc is to hear how they abandoned the angst-ridden cartwheels that weighed down “Push” and built upon the snappy hooks of “Real World” and “3 AM,” developing a sense of melodic craft that flourished in the smooth ballad “If You’re Gone” and the arena rocker “Unwell.” These were highlights on their respective albums, but when these moments are put together as a hits collection, it makes for a surprisingly entertaining batch of mainstream rock – but the real story is the bonus disc, which suggests that after this collection is out of the way, Matchbox Twenty may have their first very good studio album on the way.

01 – How Far We’ve Come
02 – I’ll Believe You When
03 – All Your Reasons
04 – These Hard Times
05 – If I Fall
06 – Can’t Let You Go
07 – Long Day
08 – Push
09 – 3AM
10 – Real World
11 – Back 2 Good
12 – Bent
13 – If You’re Gone
14 – Mad Season
15 – Disease
16 – Unwell
17 – Bright Lights

Please note: Tracks “7-10” presented in 24/96.

Matchbox Twenty – North (2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 42:25 minutes | 910 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Matchbox 20 never quite broke up. Rather, they simply faded away. One day, they were ubiquitous, the next, they just weren’t there and they stayed hidden for the better part of a decade, cobbling together a hits album and accompanying tour in 2007 but taking their time crafting their fourth album. A full ten years separate 2012’s North and its predecessor, More Than You Think You Are, a decade gap that seems slightly shorter due to Rob Thomas’ pair of solo albums and also in how Matchbox 20 pick up where they left off, spending only the briefest amount of time reckoning with pop trends that have surfaced since their last record (i.e., the disco-rock pulse of “Put Your Hands Up” and a few groove-oriented cuts that betray the influence of Maroon 5). But that doesn’t necessarily mean North is a relic of the new millennium, sounding like everything else the band’s ever done. Remarkably, Matchbox 20 has lightened up with age, whittling away any excess and pretension, winding up with their first album that could truly be called pop. It’s a big, bright, shiny record anchored with odes to the radio and partying, its few love songs sweet and easy, not tortured. At times, the slick muscular melodicism of North recalls prime Third Eye Blind more than Matchbox 20 – hooks are always pushed to the forefront, everything is wrapped in alluring gloss – but Thomas possesses a warm vulnerability that always eluded Stephan Jenkins, and Matchbox 20, as a whole, is coolly, expertly professional, turning out immaculate AAA pop that still manages to have personality. True, North feels more 2002 than 2012 – something that may hurt its commercial potential, as there are far fewer outlets for this kind of pop in 2012 than there were in 2002 – but Matchbox 20 has never made a record as cheerful or appealing or satisfying as this.

01 – Parade
02 – She’s So Mean
03 – Overjoyed
04 – Put Your Hands Up
05 – Our Song
06 – I Will
07 – English Town
08 – How Long
09 – Radio
10 – The Way
11 – Like Sugar
12 – Sleeping At The Wheel



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