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.