Rob Thomas
Cradlesong


3.0
good

Review

by Nosferatwo USER (43 Reviews)
July 1st, 2009 | 11 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Rob Thomas spreads his wings and finds himself still on the ground.

Rob Thomas is one of the few unique voices in pop music today. Love him or hate him, no one else sounds like him, which gives him a tremendous advantage in branding his music and standing out from the faceless crowd that dominates the airwaves. Matchbox Twenty would have been just another post-grunge band lost in the pile if not for his singular vocals. His voice, above all else, defined the band's sound as they racked up hit after hit. But behind that voice was a songwriter who could stand toe to toe with the best of the day, penning rich pop music that didn't have to rely on the fanciest new beats and paparazzi-magnetic starlet to succeed. In many ways, he was a throwback to the songwriters of the 70's, embracing pop music as a format to deliver his message, showing a reverence for the craft that went beyond trying to score another chart success.

After three albums with Matchbox Twenty, Thomas stepped out on his own with Something To Be, his first solo album. Containing more of his traditional pop, wrapped in new textures, he scored more hits and was an unabashed success. While the band has gotten back together, and has released a few songs since then, Thomas has returned to his solo career before putting out a full record with his band.

Cradlesong is an extension of Something To Be, a collection of traditional pop music that dabbles in the colors and textures that would not fit in with his day job fronting Matchbox Twenty. Here, he gets to explore the possibilities of his songwriting, using world rhythms and different instrumentation, unshackled by the need to fit into the guitar/bass/drums format of a band. The freedom is evident in the songwriting, as Thomas jumps between moods and feeling from song to song, never giving the songs anything besides his voice to pull them together.

The album exists in two halves, each presenting a different side of Thomas. The first half of the album is traditional pop music. Lead single "Her Diamonds" is a fuzz bass soaked slice of pop, with a radio tailored chorus that can be nothing but a hit. "Gasoline" switches the feeling, marrying a subdued but still melodic chorus atop a backdrop that borrows from electronica. "Give Me The Meltdown" is the most pop song on the album, with jangling clean guitars giving way to an uptempo chorus that is irresistible. Thomas' voice bobs and weaves over the music, the melody dancing atop the beat. The trend continues with "Someday", sounding like a more upbeat Coldplay song, and "Mockingbird", a strikingly familiar feeling song that casts the melody atop soft acoustic guitars. These five songs are all tremendously appealing, and give the impression that Cradlesong may be the first piece of work from Thomas that can approach the pop brilliance of Matchbox Twenty's seminal Mad Season.

The hope built up in those five songs is quickly dissipated, as "Real World '09" turns the album on its head. A thematic sequel to a Matchbox hit, the song is a mashup of styles, throwing thick hip hop beats, acoustic guitars, and pop melodies together in haphazard fashion. It is a compelling piece of work, but fails to mesh together. Like the proverbial train wreck, it is not a good piece of songwriting, but it has to be listened to. From there, the album never regains its footing. "Fire On The Mountain" is a slow burn with a heavy drumbeat that goes nowhere, the chorus as amelodic as anything Thomas has ever penned. "Hard On You" is a simple pop ballad, but is almost a complete rewrite of "When The Heartache Ends" from his first solo album. "Still Ain't Over You" tries a darker atmosphere, and "Snowblind" deals in minor chords, but neither bring compelling melodies to right the album's momentum.

The remaining songs are forgettable, throwaway pieces of pop that Thomas can write in his sleep. There is nothing wrong with them, but unlike his best work, there is little to separate them from the rest of his work. Even "Wonderful", which borrows the horn lines from Fastballs "G.O.D." fails to stand out from the bland tapestry of the second half of Cradlesong.

Rob Thomas is a capable songwriter, and he shows flashes of it on Cradlesong. But as was the case with his first solo album, and the last Matchbox Twenty record, he has been incapable of delivering an entire album of his best work for some time now. The first five songs on Cradlesong are all winners, and worthy additions to his impressive catalog. After that, there is little memorable about the album, which underscores the problem with pop music. Once you have a single, there's not much of a reason to keep writing great songs.



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user ratings (22)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
foreverendeared
July 1st 2009


14678 Comments


Hey good review, but where's the album artwork? you should add that! I really liked that one hit single he had off his last album

cvlts
July 1st 2009


8967 Comments


Hmm, always had respect for Rob Thomas
Good review, keep it up

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 1st 2009


15050 Comments


haha love that summary

Jim
July 2nd 2009


5110 Comments


you know what i like that summary too

i've only heard her diamonds and it's simply unremarkable

mvdu
July 2nd 2009


606 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I disagree with the review. Rob Thomas has found the hookiness he had with his first Matchbox 20 record and has expanded on it. 4.5/5 after the first listen.

foreverendeared
July 2nd 2009


14678 Comments


what is this "hookiness" that you speak of?

El_Goodo
July 24th 2009


1008 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree with the first half of the review...the rest I completely disagree. You say "Snowblind" has no compelling melodies...tell me why the hell that song won't get out of my head!!!! Wonderful is pretty catchy, but the chorus is a little cheesy.

I definitely disagree with

Rob Thomas is a capable songwriter, and he shows flashes of it on Cradlesong. But as was the case with his first solo album, and the last Matchbox Twenty record, he has been incapable of delivering an entire album of his best work for some time now.


Just because I thought the last Matchbox 20 record (assuming your talking about Exile On Mainstream) was excellent. Every song had the potential to be a single, the only one that I didn't really love was If I Fall.

Nosferatwo
July 24th 2009


17 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

No, the last Matchbox 20 record I was referring to was More Than You Think You Are. I don't consider greatest hits packages with a couple of new songs to be an album. And even those few songs are a big step down from the material on Yourself Or someone Like You and Mad Season, which is one of the most underrated pop gems of the last decade.

El_Goodo
July 25th 2009


1008 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Those albums are both classics as far as I'm concerned...I grew up listening to those albums. I never had the full "More Than You Think You Are" album but the songs I downloaded like The Difference, Downfall and Could I Be You were all pretty good and as I said I loved Exile On Mainstream, when I first heard it I thought they were a step down but the more I listened the more they grew on me.

Matchbox 20 for me are a band that have never made a bad album, or I guess I should say one that I don't like.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
July 25th 2009


16089 Comments


The songs on Exile on Mainstream are the best stuff they've done since Mad Season.

Prince1993
June 25th 2011


545 Comments


'Her Diamonds' is an epic song



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