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CD Review: . . . Something to Be by Rob Thomas

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An initial impression of Rob Thomas’ solo outing is that it’s a mixed bag, although one might suspect that (as with the second and third matchbox twenty albums) . . . Something to Be may be one of those albums that grows on you the more you listen to it.

Thomas is best known as the lead singer of the hit band matchbox twenty–a polarizing band that people seem either to love or to hate, and it seems likely that Thomas’ solo album will have a similar reception. Thomas already has one hit single from the album, the pulsating “Lonely No More,” and there are at least two other hardy songs on the album: “This Is How A Heart Breaks” and “Streetcorner Symphony” are both immediately likeable in the same upbeat fashion as “Lonely No More.”

On the flip side, . . . Something to Be sports a number of snoozers, songs that encourages listeners to drift off to sleep. “All That I Am” is a Sting-ish lullabye type number that features some exotic instruments such as a shofar and a duduk; “My, My, My” is also slow, and the album ends with the touching but extremely slow “Now Comes the Night.”

Somewhere in the middle of this are songs like “I Am an Illusion,” which is uneven and strange–although that may be the point. “When the Heartache Ends” is likeable, although for some reason it is vaguely reminiscent of “After the Thrill is Gone” by the Eagles.

The title track isn’t bad, nor is “Fallin’ to Pieces,” which may put some listeners off initially, but one can begin to dig it somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately this is not true of “Problem Girl,” in which Thomas has some strange pronunciation when singing “you’re no problem at all” that can become distracting.

Finally, “Ever the Same,” which I reviewed after hearing an acoustic version performed last August. While I like the mixing on the . . . Something to Be recording, it seems at odds with the sentiment of the song, which would be better conveyed by a simpler arrangement. But maybe it only seems that way to me, having heard it acoustically first.

. . . Something to Be is a DualDisc, which means that it is a CD on one side and a DVD on the other. The DVD side includes a short documentary–mainly snippets of Thomas working in the studio with producer Matt Serletic, as well as his collaboration with John Mayer on “Streetcorner Symphony,” and some behind-the-scenes at a photo shoot. Cutest moment: Thomas playing with his dog Tyler. The DVD also includes a photo gallery, lyrics (although these are printed in the liner notes), and the option to play the CD from the DVD side–which means if you have a good home theatre system you can hear the album in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Bottom line: Thomas has mixed it up a bit here and has begun to develop a slightly different sound for himself. But there’s still enough familiar material for devoted matchbox twenty fans to follow him on this solo excursion without suffering too much culture shock. Although, at moments, they may find themselves feeling nostalgic for the band.

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