LOS ANGELES—Executives at Atlantic Records announced Monday that multi-platinum recording artist Matchbox Twenty, which set sales records in 2000 for its mega-hit release Mad Season, has finally finished watering down tracks on its long-awaited new album Beige.
"Everyone here at Atlantic is thrilled about what's sure to be the biggest-selling, least-rocking record of the year," Atlantic public-relations spokeswoman Janet Cosgrove said. "It's been a long wait, but the incredibly boring results speak for themselves. Beige is bigger and blander than anything Matchbox Twenty has ever done."
"Grab a chair, America!" she added. "The most uninteresting band in formulaic, corporate radio is back!"
The release has been eagerly awaited by Matchbox Twenty's enormous fan base, composed of American record buyers who have a limited interest in music but enjoy the act of shopping. In order to satisfy the undemanding non-tastes of this lucrative market, Matchbox Twenty has made every effort to create what record-industry insiders say is the band's least distinctive album yet.
"Some were disappointed with the relatively limited reception to Matchbox Twenty's 2002 release More Than You Think You Are," Rolling Stone contributing editor Nathan Brackett said. "That album proved what record executives have known for years: It's actually very difficult to record a rock record that has no rock in it at all. But with this new release, Matchbox Twenty has really delivered on its signature non-sound."
After the enormous commercial success of 1996's Yourself Or Someone Like You, demand for simplistic, cookie-cutter output from the band has been high. Yet, according to Grammy-winning lead vocalist Rob Thomas, the new record's release was delayed repeatedly because of Matchbox Twenty's perfectionism in the studio.
"Our goal was to follow in the tradition of great multi-platinum artists like Elton John, Phil Collins, and the Dave Matthews Band—sales powerhouses who relied on the musical ignorance of their fans," Thomas told reporters following Monday's announcement. "We knew that if we wanted to match those historic giants for sheer lack of energy, we couldn't settle for anything less than total banality. And, though it took a lot of time and effort, I think we achieved that—an album that sets a new standard for trite crapola."
"It's really derivative and boring," he added.
Thomas said it was the expectations of listeners that drove the band to create the most average music possible.
"We wanted to give our fans exactly what they've come to expect: music so inoffensive and indistinct that it could be played virtually anywhere—a bank lobby, an SUV stuck in traffic, a party full of aging stockbrokers and their girlfriends. That's no small task. Even a lot of the most vacant and unimaginative people have some capacity to actively engage in the music they're listening to."
According to band members, hundreds of hours were spent in the studio trying to render the sound adequately benign.
"No matter how many times we recorded the new single 'Sitting Down (Hands At My Side),' there was still a certain 'oomph' coming through in the drums, a loud-ish, slightly gripping sound that we couldn't remove," drummer Paul Doucette said. "Finally, after running them through about two dozen filters, we managed to get that 'plastic spork hitting mashed potatoes' sound we were after."
There was a similar problem, band members said, with the guitar solos, some of which contained trace elements of what musicians call "passion." In addition, the interplay among bass, drums, and guitars occasionally produced uncomfortable polyrhythmic effects that provoked unintentional toe-tapping or head-bobbing in listeners. The problems were fixed through extensive re-recording.
"I'm satisfied that all the watering-down we put into this album was worth it," Thomas said. "My lyrics are super-bland, the bass might as well have been recorded on a keyboard, and just wait until you hear how dull we managed to make the guitars sound. It's amazing."
The band will introduce the album's first single next week on MTV's hugely popular, entirely insipid show Total Request Live.