Yourself Or Someone Like You

Matchbox Twenty

Atlantic, 1996

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


This album turned out to be a pivotal moment in rock history, as it marked the end of the alternative music scene while ushering in the radio-friendly, massively popular post-alt scene headlined by these guys, Third Eye Blind and the Goo Goo Dolls.

This is music antithetical to the alternative spirit that created all that great music in the 1980s and the first half of the '90s. To be fair, alt-rock had been heading in this direction since Nirvana, of course, but it wasn’t until 1994-96 that Serious Bands like Bush, Live, Candlebox, Hootie & The Blowfish and Collective Soul took over the airwaves, sold millions of records and ensured that true “alternative” rock was gone. By the end of the decade, the music had become safe and radio-friendly, guaranteed to sell tons of records.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Matchbox 20 personified this, and their debut is the epitome of this post-alt scene. It is safe, kind of dull, with little personality in the ‘90s-rock-by-numbers music; without Rob Thomas’ singing, you could mistake this for Seven Mary Three or bands of that ilk. Thomas is the band’s secret weapon, though, writing pretty much all the songs and infusing the vocals with more grit and passion than they deserve.

There was no way an album like this would fail, and it went on to sell 12 million copies based on the strength of the five singles that came off it. To be fair, as far as mainstream rock goes in the second half of the ‘90s, “Long Day” and “3 A.M.” are pretty good songs, the former displaying some deft minor-chord changes and some good wordless vocals from Thomas in the conclusion. “Real World,” “Back 2 Good” and “Push” were the other hits and they remain lifeless, if professional and calculated.

About the only time this disc grabs your attention, besides “Long Day,” is the arresting clank of “Busted,” which forgoes drums in its verses for a menacing, mechanical guitar growl before exploding into the double-time chorus and Thomas’ breathless verbiage. It’s like nothing else on this album, and even if it sounds a little close to Candlebox’s debut in its dynamics, it’s tantalizing for how it suggests this band was more than its huge, safe radio singles. Simply put, those are the two songs you’ll want to replay, unless you were one of those who really bought into this band as the torchbearers of modern rock in 1996-97.

There is something to be said for the appeal of heartland American rock, of guitar-based songs that don’t try for epic lengths or ornate instruments or willful noise or arty liberal pretense. Perhaps that’s why this album sold so well and why the singles have endured. But listened to as an album, it’s not only hard to tell the songs apart, it’s evident that the band was aiming for the mainstream but forgot to really develop a personality along the way.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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