Nearly five years had elapsed since Matchbox Twenty’s last studio album, and in the interim, singer Rob Thomas had launched a chart-topping solo career. So, despite some 28 million records sold across three multi-platinum albums, a remarkable string of hit singles, and fan demand for the band’s return to active duty running hot, fully restarting the Matchbox engine nevertheless remained in question.
The plan was to release a long-overdue greatest hits collection and to include a newly recorded track or two. And the truth is that when the members of Matchbox Twenty first reconvened to write new material, they realized that it could have been the band’s swan song. “Paul [Doucette] and I had a sense going in that this was our last record,” says Thomas. “It seemed like a good one to go out on. We’d do a greatest hits album and put one new single on it.”
However, to quote one of the band’s biggest hits, they very quickly and surprisingly found their way “Back 2 Good.”
The outstanding result is “EXILE ON MAINSTREAM”: six new songs overseen by Steve Lillywhite, marking the renowned Grammy-winning producer’s first work with the band, combined with a collection of 11 Matchbox Twenty smashes.
Thomas, Doucette, Cook, and Yale gathered in Thomas’s New York home studio to write, each bringing with them the life and musical growth they’d experienced since the band’s last album, 2002’s “MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE.” Doucette, who shifted from drummer to guitarist after Adam Gaynor left the band in 2005, had made a solo album under the rubric The Break and Repair Method and had scored a film for Nickelodeon. Cook had released a CD via his other project, The New Left. And Thomas’s solo career took off with the multi-platinum “…SOMETHING TO BE.”
It turns out everyone had a lot on their minds. The ideas came pouring out, with the band writing 13 songs in four days. The first single, “How Far We’ve Come,” merges apocalyptic lyrics and frenetic, building rhythms. Doomsday has never sounded so good. “There’s no reason it can’t be sexy,” laughs Thomas about the end of the world. The other new tracks — including the darkly humorous “I’ll Believe You When,” the driving “All Your Reasons,” the R&B-leaning “I Can’t Let You Go,” the jangly “If I Fall,” and the heartbreaking ballad “These Hard Times” — share a lyrical leanness that allows them to cut quickly through the sonic atmosphere.
When not working on the new material, the band selected the 11 songs for the greatest hits portion — which they decided to present in chronological order to trace the band’s musical evolution.
The album’s title pokes good-natured fun at the group’s tremendous popularity, while playing off of the classic Rolling Stones album “EXILE ON MAIN STREET.” Fittingly, 2007 marks the tenth anniversary of Matchbox’s breakthrough into the mainstream. Their debut album, “YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU,” was released in the fall of 1996 and began an initial slow burn with the rock radio success of “Long Day.” By the spring of 1997, the band’s momentum had become explosive and unstoppable. The album went gold in June, platinum in July… and that was only the beginning. In October 1999, three years after its release, “YOURSELF…” earned the RIAA’s Diamond Award for U.S. sales of over ten million, and has gone on to sell more than 15 million copies worldwide.
Matchbox Twenty was named Best New Band in the 1997 Rolling Stone Readers Poll, and they followed the enormous success of “YOURSELF…” with two more multi-platinum sets — 2000’s “MAD SEASON BY MATCHBOX TWENTY” and 2002’s “MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE.” Among their many accolades are five Grammy nominations and three American Music Award nominations, while Rob Thomas has earned three Grammy Awards, 11 BMI Awards, and has been twice named Billboard’s Songwriter of the Year.