A record dedicated to Yourself, or Someone Like You
Every so often a record comes along that changes your life. It’s been this way since you could buy records. Whoever you are, wherever you are, it will happen. Be it Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Nirvana’s Nevermind or Miles Davis Kind of Blue, you’ll hear something that rewires you. You’ll know it when you see it and you’ll feel it when you hear it. For me, it was Yourself Or Someone Like You.
This is my favourite Matchbox Twenty record. In fact it’s one of my favourite records of all time. It would be easy to spend hours trying to put into words the impact this album has had on my life. The problem is, I’d never really be able to make you understand. All I can say is, without this album, my life would be very, very different. Hopefully, one day you’ll turn on your radio and hear why.
One of the biggest selling records of the ‘90s, Yourself Or Someone Like You is matchbox twenty’s most successful record to date. Originally called Woodshed Diaries, the title was changed at the last minute after a heavy drinking session in an LA bar between Rob and Paul. After a girl hired to sing dedicated a song to “yourself or someone like you”, everything changed. Even though all the publicity was on the verge of being sent out, everything was recalled and Yourself Or Someone Like You was born.
In some ways the record is very much set in the mid ‘90s. Angry and angst ridden with an acoustic rock feel, it holds all qualities of a mid ‘90s release. With the likes of Counting Crows, Creed, Live and Collective Soul riding high, it’s easy to see why it struck a chord in the alt rock scene. But unlike so many records from that time, Yourself Or Someone Like You has seemed to transcend era and genre and has achieved something the other albums of that time have not – it became absolutely timeless.
The title of the record couldn’t encapsulate the feelings and themes that run through this record any better. It’s your life; it’s your friends life; it’s the life of anyone and everyone. From Real World through to Hang, it holds the stories we can all relate too: loss; loneliness; anger; frustration; and pain at the hands of someone else. This isn’t a record that was designed for commercial success or schemed over to appeal to the masses, it’s a record written by a young guy living his life and trying to figure it out. No pretence, just honesty.
Honesty is a funny thing in music. It can either be so honest that it’s uncomfortable to listen to, or in some cases just so woefully bad, you throw up in your own mouth when you listen to it (that’s happened to me a few times, I’ll be honest). Then there is the rare case when it’s done right. The best songwriters in the world can do something that is incredibly hard to do – write a song that’s so open, that anyone can relate to it but make it sound like it’s been written just for you. I’m sure anyone who’s reading this, or who’s ever listened to the album, will say the same thing “it’s like I told them how I feel and then the wrote me an song”. If you’re one of those people, I hear you. Yourself Or Someone Like You is full of songs like this.
Rob’s song connects with that part of you that needs to understand and needs solace and he does it in a way that makes you believe him. You feel like you’re all in it together. I’m sure there are very few people who had a childhood as turbulent as Robs and I’m sure we’ve all looked for pain in our own lives that wasn’t really there, but even if you have, the message is universal. That’s the sign of a great record and a great songwriter.
And let’s not kid ourselves, his voice goes a long way to helping you feel it. When he sings, you believe him. There’s no high pitched “look at me, I’m hurting here” squeal, no “I’m the long haired lead singer of a band trying to take over where Nirvana left off” twang. He had a voice that had nothing to prove, just something to say.
But this wasn’t just about Rob. Matchbox Twenty is like every band – it’s only as strong as its components parts. Each member of the band has their own individual talents, drives and visions. If you took one of those components away, it wouldn’t have been the same record. It also had what all bands first records have – a raw energy.
Throughout the record you can hear a band: Paul and Brian creating an awesome rhythm section (I’m guessing the trust built between the three of them during their Tabitha’s Secret days didn’t hurt); Adam, who is in my opinion, a solid rhythm guitarist keeping it tight; and Kyle, nineteen years old and full to the brim of riffs, licks and solo’s. It’s the band a whole that give the songs their colour and brings the record to life.
Opening with Real World, the TV jingle like riff is one of the most distinctive moments on any Matchbox Twenty song. Whatever show you attend, this one gets the crowd pumped. To me, it’s always been that “screw you” kind of song. When you’re having a bad day, this always lightens the load. The bounce and funky grooves continues with Girl Like That and Damn, but they are nicely juxtaposed with the undercurrent of anger and bitterness that runs through the whole record.
There’s also a harder edge to the record, emotionally and musically. Long Day, Push and Argue are classic examples of alternative rock at its best. Emotionally driven with music that plays to the angst, anger and gut wrenching pain of a relationship gone wrong, there is not a moment in these songs that doesn’t ring true.
But like all good records, it has musical balance. Kody, Back 2 Good and 3 AM take the hard edge off the more rocky songs and Shame and Hang nicely sandwich Busted. It’s the balance that really makes this album work. Too much rock can dilute any message of real heartache. You need to hear a flowing melody, a slower tempo and you need to hear the heart behind a voice. These songs offer that up.
This is the best Matchbox Twenty record produced and is certainly the record of their career. It has become a fan favourite and their best selling record to date. But aside from the obvious accolades, it achieved something more important – it set the bar for every release to follow. It’s emotional; it’s sincere; it’s honest; its balanced; and it’s beautifully crafted. But most of all its life; it’s your life. It is, without a doubt, yourself or someone like you.