Despite—or perhaps because of—his everyman voice and sensitive songwriting, Rob Thomas has had a rather successful decade. This includes his time fronting modern-rockers Matchbox Twenty (“Bent,” “Unwell,” “If You’re Gone,” “3 a.m.”), a successful solo career (“Lonely No More”) and three Grammys for a tune he co-wrote with Santana (“Smooth”). For an album by someone with such a ubiquitous pop presence, however, Cradlesong is curiously flat.
- Beyond the Weekly
- Rob Thomas
Blame the album’s pumped-up production and its influences, both of which are too ambitious for Thomas’ lyrical anemia. Bruce Springsteen’s ’80s output inspires “Fire on the Mountain,” a towering song with gigantic drums and even grander riffs, while the electronic-tinged highlight “Gasoline” is another ’80s homage, this time to U2.
Eighties apes continue on “Give Me the Meltdown” (which Thomas has said, correctly, resembles INXS), the Bon Jovi-ish crunchy metal jag “Still Ain’t Over You” and the cheesy lowlight “Real World ’09,” which sounds more like “Billy Joel ’89.”
Cradlesong’s bigger problem, however, is its monotony: gospel-based background vocals can’t save the plodding single “Her Diamonds,” while the acoustic-leaning “Snowblind” and “Hard on You” are middle-of-the-road radio pap (and resemble Matchbox’s lukewarm singles). There’s nothing wrong with a little experimentation; the horn-peppered “Wonderful,” on which Thomas actually breaks a vocal sweat, is proof of that.