Exile on Mainstream

Artist: Matchbox Twenty
Listenability Scale: 95%
Released by: Atlantic Records
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

Having been a big Matchbox Twenty fan since the early days when they were matchbox 20, I was always sort of surprised that I didn’t follow the solo career of Rob Thomas. It’s not that I didn’t like his solo stuff because I did, but in any case, when I heard a rumor that the boys, less one Adam Gaynor, were going to release a Greatest Hits CD, my initial reaction what a less than whole-hearty “Whoop-De-Doo.” I said to myself, “Self, it would have been nice for them to get the gang back together and put out an album rather than a CD of stuff I already own.” Then I saw the real press release for “Exile on Mainstream,” and I had a little more hope because it was announced that in addition to the eleven “greatest hits” songs, the boys actually went back into the studio coming out with six new songs (and a seventh cover tune if you did the iTunes download/presale), for what I have a feeling has to be one of the highest ratios of “new songs” to “greatest hit songs” ever, at a whopping 35-39% depending on the version you bought.

And you know what? Chicken-butt. Oh wait, I mean, the six songs were a refreshing beginning to a slightly different sound yet still reminiscent of the matchbox 20 music I really liked. From the rollicking and kick-ass work-out song “How Far We’ve Come,” to the bouncier “I’ll Believe You When,” you can already see the new songs fitting right into a concert. “All Your Reasons” sounded like it was just a blast of fun to record and has a super-easy sing-along for the crowd to get going, and “If I Fall” keeps the up-tempo attitude. But the new songs aren’t all about rockin’, there’s a slow-down with the reflection on “These Hard Times” and a bluesier feel with “Can’t Let You Go.” The iTunes bonus track of a cover of The Kinks “Come Dancing” shows that it’s true, Rob Thomas is no Ray Davies, but it’s still a fun take on a classic.

As far as the greatest hits tunes they are all of the Top 40 hits for the Matchbox Twenty, sans “Long Day” which wasn’t a huge radio hit but did get them noticed enough until “Push” launched them out of playing a place like the 200 capacity Schubas in Chicago and on to major arenas. The songs span the Matchbox Twenty CD collection, from the aforementioned “Long Day” to “Bright Lights,” with the emphasis on their first CD, “Yourself or Someone Like You” getting five songs, and three each from “Mad Season” and “More Than You Think You Are.”

Whereas most other Greatest Hits collections will make you technically re-purchase nine songs just to get the one new song (which many times isn’t really new, just a song that wasn’t released before), I have got to give the boys of Matchbox Twenty a lot of credit for tossing in six solid new songs, various packaging options depending on the level of fan you might be, and also give fans new hope for a tour. Of the songs on the CDs the only one I don’t really care for, and I never really did care for it, is “Disease.” Just a personal preference issue I guess, and so, with that, “Exile on Mainstream” gets 95% on the Entertainment Ave! Listenability Scale, and thanks to the legal download nation, if you don’t want the old stuff you already own, and you’re a Matchbox Twenty fan, do yourself a favor and at least spend the $5.94 or so to get the new songs you don’t own yet.

It’s good to hear the boys (at least most of them) back together, I’d like to do an interview now and ask them “What do you like most about the last car you bought?”, and I wonder if Rob Thomas has used a highway off-ramp to write a song lately. Since the new music was written by the four of them, maybe they could all hit an off-ramp! Me, I’m still just hoping they can write something to get David Hasslehoff back on the charts. How F-d up would that be?

That’s it for this one! I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!