'Parade" -- the opening track of Matchbox Twenty's first studio album in 10 years, "North" (Atlantic/Emblem) -- is all about trying to figure out how long to stay in the middle of all the excitement.
Rob Thomas seems to be trying to convince himself, and maybe his bandmates, when he sings, "You don't want that parade to leave you now."
It's an interesting sentiment, especially when so much of "North" sounds like the band rushing to catch up with the pop-rock parade it used to lead in the '90s, with "Push" and "3 a.m." It seems to explain why the band tries on so many different styles throughout the album, some that work and some that don't.
The first single, "She's So Mean," is one that works, picking up the pace, adding some snark and turning up the drums in the mix so they're almost dueling with Thomas' vocals. The gorgeous ballad "Overjoyed" has a modern country feel, reflecting some of the recording sessions the band did in Nashville, while "I Will" gains power from stripping the production down to the acoustic essentials.
So why would they go for a ridiculous Maroon 5-styled dance-pop number like "Put Your Hands Up"? Or the '80s goofiness of "Your Song" and "Like Sugar"? Rather than sounding current, they end up sounding even more dated, the aural equivalent of seeing your grandfather in skinny jeans.
"North" has some great moments, but it also suffers from a lack of direction.
BOTTOM LINE An unexpected hodgepodge of pop styles and levels of quality