Matchbox Twenty – Where The Light Goes

Atlantic Records

Release Date: May 26th 2023

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Matchbox Twenty– Where The Light Goes (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Friends
  2. Wild Dogs (Running In A Slow Dream)
  3. Rebels
  4. One Hit Love
  5. Warm Blood
  6. Queen OF New York City
  7. Where The Light Goes
  8. Hang On Every Word
  9. Don’t Get Me Wrong
  10. I Know Better
  11. No Other Love (feat. Amanda Shires)
  12. Selling Faith

Over the past few years, and since the inception of this ever-growing and still-in-the-middle blog series about influential artists, I’ve been challenged by the type of music that I listen to, and my previous preconception that Christian music is good and everything else is bad, was indeed turned on its head. I’ve been blessed and inspired by many of the artists that we’ve blogged about that we deem to be influential in our lives as well as in the lives of the wider world around us; and I’ve realised that God can and often does us people what we don’t think that He could, to further His kingdom and to make His name famous and to broaden our horizons to discover or rediscover something new about Him or about ourselves. I wouldn’t be even caught listening to many of the artists I’m listening to now- even 2-3 years ago; and that is a good thing indeed. Mainstream music isn’t bad, and sometimes it’s much more fulfilling and satisfying to hear than CCM music- particularly because CCM is ‘neat’ and ‘tied up in a bow’ by the end of 3 and a half minutes. Mainstream music, for lack of a better word, is real and speaks about the world as it is, and how we navigate today as it is and as we see it.

Though pop music is rosy sometimes and speaks about sunshine and rainbows (and nowadays probably sex- but that is too often!), and country music delves into the ideals of American and the land of the brave and the free (and about living in the middle of nowhere and about trucks and beers and fishing!); I reckon the type of music apart from CCM and worship, that is the most meaningful, is probably rock music. Music similar to Train, Goo Goo Dolls, Switchfoot, Needtobreathe, Gavin DeGraw, Jason Mraz, Counting Crows, Five For Fighting, The Fray, Daughtry, and Imagine Dragons. That’s not to say that other types of music don’t have a place- it’s just that I’ve found rock music with an edge to be more relevant and creative and musically expressive than most other types of music. One such artist that I’ve found to be relevant, relatable, thought-provoking and inspiring of late is Matchbox Twenty. Matchbox Twenty, an edgy alternative rock band in the 2000’s, yet having only released 5 albums in that time, is a group that both Jon and I considered writing about in a blog a while ago (but we felt later on that the artist didn’t fit for some reason!), although singles like “Unwell” and “How Far We’ve Come” strike a chord. In fact it was lead singer Rob Thomas’s solo work that impressed us more (songs like “Ever The Same”, “Little Wonders”, “Someday”, “Hold On Forever”, “One Less Day (Dying Young)” are all encouraging and comforting), but still he didn’t really fit in the blog series of influential artists either. Nonetheless, with the group releasing their brand new studio album this year, titled Where The Light Goes, we were met with the group’s first studio album in 11 years, and an intriguing challenge that was offered to me. Would the band be relevant still after all these years away? When many bands come and go, where is Matchbox Twenty’s role amongst all of the other bands that are out there?

The answer, from my listening to their album, is that this band is still relevant. Sure, they’re older and they probably can’t dance as freely around the stage. Maybe they’re more jaded about the world and they’re more certain of their viewpoints. But from many listens, I’ve found that this album represents a kind of rebirth and metamorphosis for the band- a chance to bring in new listeners and hopefully retain their loyal fanbase from before. Whatever the case, Where The Light Goes speaks about real issues, and though the band don’t solve all (or even any) of these issues, what we’re left with is healthy discussion with a greater appreciation of life and the world around us, with all of its ups and downs.

Opening with the introspective and relatable “Friends”, the nearly-5-minute melody is sung from the lens of someone who feels alone and who seems to be disillusioned by the fast pace of the world around them, but then quickly resists succumbing to the pressures of life and declaring that in the end they will make it, because all of their friends are with them around them and supporting them. It’s a vague song, and even the meaning that I’m attributing to it may not be what lead singer Rob had in mind. But that’s the beauty of any song- it can be interpreted in any way that you want it to. “Friends” and that radio friendly rock sound sets the tone for the rest of the album, and segues into “Wild Dogs (Running In a Slow Dream)”. The lead single for the album, Rob reiterates hat this song is about finding your own friendship group and discovering your ‘pack’: If you’re a kid and you grew up in the suburbs at all, there’s a lot of nights where it’s, like, one in the morning and your friends are knocking on your window for you to sneak out the window and go out, y’know, and make bad decisions! [but] if you’re a little off and you’re kind of a misfit when you’re young…when you finally do find that other group of misfits, usually they’re more creative than others. They’re a little more sensitive — like you are — and they’re more welcoming of you and all of your flaws and all of your differences. And so when you find that group that makes you feel like that, there’s something really, really special about it. And though the song can also be read like Switchfoot’s “Dare You To Move” (running in the opposite direction to everyone else, being a rebel and thinking more for yourself and not being pressured into doing something you don’t want to do, or believing in something just because society says so), “Wild Dogs” encourages us to be free and think for ourselves, but to also find people to bounce ideas off of, and people that will challenge us and make us grow, not necessarily people who think the same as us.

The rest of Where the Light Goes speaks about the ups and downs of life, as Rob poses question after question- with all of them not necessarily a simple answer. The mid-tempo ballad “Rebels” speaks about the younger version of yourself who is so certain and ‘right’ about how things are in the world, with Rob imparting wisdom to the younger versions of ourselves, inviting us to hold ideas more loosely and to listen more because we will learn something from someone and that we’re not the smartest person in the room. We are indeed rebels, but Rob reminds us that we’re not the rebel that the world needs to follow, and that truth is sobering when we hear it. “One Hit Love”, presumably an autobiographical track about how the band came back together and how the band members genuinely love each other and are a real family, is a definite highlight on the album; while “Warm Blood”, an acoustic guitar led track, is where Rob dives deep into a psyche that we all have- that people are just like animals and that sometimes we do things in our lives just to serves ourselves and our own purposes, when we really should be looking out for the important people in our lives who’s opinions matter most to us. We can act all macho about ‘oh, we’re just warm blood and we’re just animals and we just do what we do because that’s the way it’s always been done’, or we can look a little deeper and break away from our vices and our habits. Yes, things are the way that they are, but they don’t have to stay that way.

“Queen Of New York City”, a vibrant and powerful anthem, speaks about all of the strong women in the lives of all the band members, and the realisation that we need to lift up and acknowledge the strength of all of the women in our lives; while the title track is probably the most reflective and introspective and contemplative of the entire project, with Rob outlining that he wants to know where the light goes when he sleeps, and he also asks ‘…can you tell me where the light goes every time your eyes close? If it’s there, then it doesn’t show, tell me where the light goes, I wanna know, can you tell me why the room dims every time you leave it? And I’m a shadow of a heartbreak, and a ghost of all the endings, oh, I wanna know…’. There’s no resolution here, but there’s enough questions to generate a 2 hour discussion with your friends about ethics, morals, and religion. Happy discussing! “Hang On Every Word”, a piano ballad, speaks about a friend or a mentor who is hurting and in a tight spot, and Rob then giving them comfort and crying out that ‘…I will hang, hang on every word, word that you say, let your voice be the edge of my world, when nothing goes right and all you can speak is the hurt, I will hang, hang on every word, you, you can feel free to brag or you can cry up a storm, if all that you need is someone to believe you, I will hang…’; while intense rocker “Don’t Get Me Wrong” is about the band’s unbreakable bond as best friends but also about the dichotomous things people say as friends in a band, but still best friends nonetheless: A lot of times, when people have been together for years, you can have arguments that get really heated and keep you on edge. It’s only natural for someone to sometimes think it may be the end. This song was just someone saying, ‘I know I get mad sometimes, but I’m not going anywhere.’

“I Know Better”, an eye-opener if ever there was one, speaks about a scenario (whether it’s fictitious or not is anyone’s guess), where someone with perceived superior intellect or knowledge lectures someone else and proclaims that ‘…I’ll engage you and persuade you, help you make up your mind, I implore you, I adore you, I would never lead you blind, to let you go on, knowing you’re wrong, would be worse than unkind, ‘causе in time, you will find I know better…’. It’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to someone who never likes to be wrong, and is probably the other side to the coin of “King Of Anything” by Sara Bareilles. A song where the persona is a narcissist, we are also introduced to the nasty side of politics, where the left and the right in America dig their heels in and proclaim their side to be the only side, and that they know better than the other person or party. The poppy and radio friendly “No Other Love”, with Amanda Shires on guest vocals, speaks about a relationship that is stronger than any hardship and adversity; while Where the Light Goes ends with “Selling Faith”, an acoustic guitar led love song about how in love Rob is with his partner, that he would buy some faith from her if she was selling it.

Maybe it’s the fact that not all of the songs end with resolutions, or maybe Matchbox Twenty’s album seems more relatable than others this year. But what I’ve found is that Where the Light Goes is one of the strongest albums lyrically, that I’ve heard in 2023. Sure, I will always revert back to listening to CCM because that’s in my DNA and in my childhood and in my blood. I am a Christian and I will listen to songs about Jesus. But Matchbox Twenty reminds me that other songs needn’t be demonised, and their new album is proof of that. Honest, vulnerable, real, hard-hitting, and questioning, as well as uninhibited and unreserved; Where the Light Goes speaks about things that most of us can understand- love, relationships, hard-to-be-around people, and everything in between. And when everything is said and done, perhaps the point is maybe not to have all the answers. Sure, we may know for certain about the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But everything else in between? Is that up for interpretation? Something to think about and discuss. Well done Rob and everyone else involved, I can’t wait to hear what’s next from you in the future!

Your dreams at 20 don’t have to be your dreams at 50. I thought, ‘We can always go out and play, but if we never make another record, it’s okay. We had a great run.’ I had written us off. [but] Once songs develop color and personality, it’ like, ‘Hey, this is who we are now’. Then we can build on that because part of the journey’s figuring out what our individual parts sound like when they’re together again — and do we still like it? Luckily, we did.

[and fights] It doesn’t escalate the way it used to. There were definitely periods where I’d do something with Paul and Gregg and Kyle’s initial response wasn’t favorable, but because we weren’t all in there fighting, he would live with it for two days then call back saying, ‘I see where that was going now.’ Or I’d tell Paul, ‘That’s not a bridge,’ then days later, I’m saying, ‘That’s a perfect bridge.’ There’s something to be said about living with something to really see how you feel about it. There’s a love between us that’s eternal and the only time that’s hard is when we’re creating. With four people trying to make something, it’s tough, but for this record that was less so, maybe because we made it in chunks.

I realized how little of their life was spent around Matchbox Twenty. It’s like, ‘Here’s the most important thing — being a father — and here’s how little Matchbox [has featured in that].’ Matchbox isn’t unimportant and I’ll be in Matchbox until I die, but that put it into perspective. In our twenties, it was like being in an army family for our families. Everything was in service of Matchbox Twenty. If we had to leave, we never questioned it. Years went by and we gave everything because it meant everything to us. As you get older, you have other gardens to tend to and Matchbox Twenty becomes far from the only important thing, so it’s easier to imagine letting go.”

The thing about where we are now is it feels like where we should be. There was a moment making this record where I went, ‘This is the exact record I’m supposed to be making and these are the people I’m supposed to be making it with.’ Not because we swore we’d keep the band together, but because our lives converged again in a natural way that felt like this is where we’re supposed to be.

3 songs to listen to: Rebels, Hang On Every Word, Don’t Get Me Wrong

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Goo Goo Dolls, Gavin DeGraw, Jason Mraz, Counting Crows, Five For Fighting, The Fray, Daughtry, Imagine Dragons, Train

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