Every collection starts somewhere. When it comes to music, mine started with a fat man in thick glasses wearing a silly hat.
Matchbox 20’s “Yourself or Someone Like You” wasn’t technically the first CD I ever bought (that would be Counting Crows’ “Recovering the Satellites,” which found the corner of my closet once I got sick of listening to “Long December” on repeat), but for all intents and purposes, it was my first album.
You know how nowadays you have different music for different moods? Well, before getting the chance to build a music collection, that’s not a luxury I could afford. One album became the soundtrack to every mood and activity I had, at least until I could save up enough allowance to buy something else.
Mowing the lawn? Packers won? Family road trip? Mowing the lawn? Sent to my room? Packers lost? Doing homework? Reading? Mowing the lawn? Well, I could pick Matchbox 20 or … Matchbox 20. Out came the jewel case with the aforementioned funny-looking fat dude and into the stereo went the smooth rhythms of Rob Thomas and the gang. I’d always watch through the little window on my CD player to see if the half-red, half-reflective disc would spin fast enough to turn pink; by the time I realized it wouldn’t (that’s not quite how colors work, it turns out), the sounds I overrated and the lyrics that went over my head had started, and “Yourself or Someone Like You” tailored itself to be the perfect soundtrack to whatever situation I was in.
As my music collection grew and my taste refined, I realized that there wasn’t anything particularly transcendent about Matchbox 20. Sure, “Yourself” was one of the best pop-radio rock albums of the ’90s era — it spawned a number of top singles and sold more than 15 million copies — but I have a hard time envisioning future Jimi Hendrixes and Bruce Springsteens citing “I will push you a-round, and I will, and I will” as inspiration. Still, for me, it didn’t need to be transcendent — it just needed to be first. That album nestled its way into my heart and will always be among my favorites.
I can’t imagine that my case is unique. I think most people have that first album that no matter how brilliant (“The Joshua Tree”? Oh, sure it was) or how silly (a hearty bravo to those who own up to Limp Bizkit), they will recall with a smile and sing along with when it’s suddenly playing in an airport gift shop.
Since “Yourself or Someone Like You,” the Matchbox boys have put out a few other CDs, gone on hiatus twice and dropped the 20 for a Twenty. Emerging from the second hiatus, they’re releasing their first album in just about a decade, “North,” on Tuesday, which is sure to have catchy riffs and a power ballad or two. Heck, it might even be a better album than the band’s debut back in 1996.
But no matter how good, there’s no way “North” reaches first album, “Yourself or Someone Like You” status. I don’t even own a lawn mower.
It’s 3 a.m., Andy must be lonely.