CD • Has it really been a full 10 years since Matchbox Twenty released a new album? We should have appreciated the absence more. While the pop-rock band's 1996 debut, "Yourself or Someone Like You," isn't as bad as you remember (with singles such as "Long Day" and "Push" that still had a smidgen of grit), the new "North" continues the blandness that the Rob Thomas-led quartet has written since Thomas outed himself as a pop singer on "Smooth" back in 1999.
There is nothing wrong with pop. But at least past mega-singles such as "If You're Gone" and "Unwell" would sound acceptable on your parents' soft-rock station. Here, singles like "She's So Mean" are banal lyrically and musically. The spirit and energy of the best pop makes you want to dance (or at least tap your foot) with melodies and choruses that make you hum all day and into the night.
But on the new album, Matchbox Twenty doesn't show the creative smarts that pop requires, nor any edge that would give it any credibility as a rock band. It's exiled between those two worlds.