Sound: This is a great CD - it's lyrically very dark, but with good pop melodies/harmonies, and some great musicianship. An overview of each track:
01. "Real World" - This is a strong opener, with a catchy main riff, and great hook. This is definitely a rock song, while remaining very pop-friendly. The lyrics are good, and overall, while not the deepest or most emotional song on the album, it does it's job - to hook you.
02. "Long Day" - The song starts out acoustically, but immediately after the first verse hits a heavier sound than we heard in "Real World". The lyrics here tell more of a story, and with the songs quiet-heavy-quiet kind of vibe (quiet first verse and quiet bridges, the rest of the song being heavier), it's definitely emotional. Also, while no technical marvel, Kyle Cook's guitar solo here is the first taste we get of his leads, and really sums up his simple but emotional style of playing.
03. "3 AM" - This song is the mellowest so far, the guitars being mostly clean/acoustic. The lyrics are more personal to Thomas, and it can be heard in the delivery.
04. "Push" - "Push" is lyrically heavy, with the whole song having a somewhat ambient, moody vibe. The lyrics deal with emotional abuse, and although it seems at first that Thomas is doing the abusing, a closer listen shows it to be the opposite. Cook's leads are spread throughout the song, and really add to the moody feel, along with the not quite clean guitar tone in the verse and first half of the chorus.
05. "Girl Like That" - Another up-tempo song, this manages to keep your foot tapping and your smile on, despite the lyrical content, focusing on alcoholism, relationship troubles, etc. The main riff is a great hook, as is the chorus, and the dynamic changes keep it interesting. A solid rock song, more reminiscent of the 70's than the 90's in a lot of ways.
06. "Back 2 Good" - A similar vibe to "Push", moody and ambient. The lyrics here are also similarly dark. Probably not the strongest song on the record, but it does fit well with the album on the whole. The chorus-y guitar and flutes do add a different layer to it, though.
07. "Damn" - Starts off with just drums, with the guitar riff entering soon after. The first riff-oriented song on the album. Good guitar work, and the backing vocals here pull some heaviness out of the pre-chorus, and the double time in the choruses brings some variation. The lyrics are a little cliche'd, but still manage to sound like Rob Thomas.
08. "Argue" - A heavier, guitar-oriented rock song. Great guitar interplay between Cook and Gaynor, with interlocking rhythm patterns and arpeggios/riffs.
09. "Kody" - "Kody" starts out mellow, but by the end has hit a pretty heavy note. The lyrics deal with alcoholism, and the echoing voice in the chorus "lonely, you're lonely now..." is downright creepy. The guitar work is fantastic, sparse in the first verse, a great strat tone in the second, and then the third verse is full of great heavy lead work, over the angriest vocal delivery we've heard yet.
10. "Busted" - By far the heaviest song on the album. The intro hits hard, with a heavy, minor key, interlocking riff, then the sparse verses. The song probably wouldn't work by itself, but in the context of the album seems to fit well. It's angry, moody, angsty, and layered with sampled noise. Definitely worth a listen or two.
11. "Shame" - Similar to a later MB20 song, "All Your Reasons" (and with the same two-chord verse progression) this song is happy, musically, with rather depressing lyrics. The main riff is a jangly arpeggio of the verse chords, and the lyrics here are excellent. While this song is likely to be overlooked, it's definitely a great listen.
12. "Hang" - the albums last track, "Hang" is completely acoustic. The lyrics here tell a story, similarly to "Long Day", but the vibe here is, for the first time in the album, without a hint of anger, accusation, or fear. They're definitely sad, but depending on how you read into them, they're also hopeful. The guitar work is great, with a simple acoustic rhythm being the bass of the song, and some cool arpeggios and leads on a classical guitar. Possibly the most heartwrenching song on the album, but there's a lot of room to read into it.
Overall, the CD has a very 90's feel to it, dirty electric guitars, back-to-basics leads, and particularly angry and depressing lyrics. However, not only are there some true gems here if you look at each song individually, but I highly recommend listening to the whole record a few times. It takes you on an emotional journey, from "Real World"'s initial snare cracks to the last unresolved chord of "Hang". // 10
Lyrics: So anyone who's a fan of either MB20 or Rob Thomas's solo work knows that he's a fantastic lyricist. But this album is his initial effort, and in a lot of ways it's more raw than anything that came after. The lyrics deal with alcoholism, abuse, loneliness, and depression. His singing definitely reflects his lyrics, with a rough vocal tone, and possibly the most emotional delivery in his career. // 10
Overall Impression: This album definitely measures up the other 90's pop rock albums (Gin Blossom's "New Miserable Experience" comes to mind as another great one). The most impressive songs are probably "Push", "Long Day", "Real World", and "3 AM", although my personal favorite is "Hang". I can't stress enough, though, that this is an album, not just a collection of songs. It'll take you on a journey. It's my personal favorite CD, as a complete work. The lyrics, guitars, and overall craft have all impressed me from the day I bought it. I've lost this CD a few times, and every time I've replaced it within a week - even when I still had a digital copy on my computer. All in all, I have yet to find it's weak point. // 10