Matchbox Twenty – Where the Light Grows (Album Review)

Matchbox Twenty, originally known as Matchbox 20, burst onto the Alternative Rock scene back in 1996 with their debut album Yourself or Something Like You. Featuring a slew of hit singles that carried them to the top of charts for two years, the album bridged the gap between the Grunge era that preceded in the earlier part of the decade, and the new brand of Alternative Rock that emerged in the aftermath.

Making them an extremely hot commandant as we entered the new millennium, Lead Singer Rob Thomas’ collaboration with Santana on the 1999 hit “Smooth” only added to the buzz. Making the band’s sophomore album one of the most anticipated of 2000, and Mad Season was a solid, however a much more Pop oriented album that experimented with sounds. A crossover to an even larger mainstream audience, the band parlayed that success into their 2002 album More Than You Think You Are; which again found them shifting yet again, this time toward a more guitar driven style. Showing their diversity, they would go on hiatus in 2004, and it has been a relatively non-linear story for Matchbox Twenty since then.

Some might argue that Thomas’ solo career quickly surpassed Matchbox Twenty, thus putting them in the backseat, but they have reemerged here and there through the years. Returning in 2007 with Exile on Mainstream, a compilation featured six new tracks, to some, it still felt like a soft reentry for the band, thus leaving many filling less than fulfillment. To follow would be some touring in ’08, as well as in 2012 through 2013 (then supporting the proper full-length North), before another gap in time leading up to their return to the road in 2017.

Still leaving some fans feeling unsatisfied, in 2020 the prospects of a new album became even less likely when it was learned the band simply wanted to tour and maybe release a new song here or there. A move a lot of artists make, but honestly usually only those much more prolific, because Matchbox Twenty’s only had four albums under their belt in over two plus decades. A bit of a letdown, to the surprise of many, they had a change of heart and are back in 2023 with a brand new full-length album.

Something that excited dedicated followers, for others who might have put the band somewhere in back of their memories… it certainly struck a level of curiosity. After all, it has been eleven long years since they have released a new album, and as alluded to, there is no denying their inconsistent activity. So, what can fans expect from the new album, and will they be let down?

Entitled Where the Light Grows, and released on May 26th through Atlantic Records, the album has plenty of highlights. As mentioned, a band who has never settled on just one sound, this record manages to check off a list of boxes for fans. However, if you are looking for another Yourself or Something Like You, then you need to come to the realization that we are nearly thirty years removed from it and Matchbox Twenty has not shown hints of that type of sound since portions of Mad Season.

Facing that reality, Where the Light Grows, is a collaborative record, the sound is sonically very modern in places (“Friends,” “Wild Dogs (Running in a Slow Dream),” and “Warm Blood”), but also very much Matchbox Twenty in others (“Rebels” and “Selling Faith”).  This means you get a balance of modern Pop leanings with tints of Alternative Rock. Certainly an album that is mature, polished, and less raw Alternative Rock, there are also moments that strike a certain nerve like “I Should Know Better.” Although, perhaps one of the most interesting songs of all here is the single “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” which is fun, engaging, and very catchy.

Simply put, Where the Light Grows could be the last album any of us here from Matchbox Twenty ever, or at least for a very long time. Putting this into perspective, you should soak up the new songs and appreciate what they have to offer. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Matchbox Twenty’s Where the Light Grows 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

Matchbox Twenty – Where the Light Grows / Atlantic Records (2023)

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