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Rob Thomas | Chip Tooth Smile

The Matchbox Twenty frontman doesn't give you much to sink your teeth into.

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“I‘m not afraid of getting older,” claims Rob Thomas right off the hop on One Less Day (Dying Young), the opening track and first single from Chip Tooth Smile. Maybe he means it. But you’d never know from the way the Matchbox Twenty frontman clings to the past — both his own and others’ — on this fourth solo album. Stylishly produced by Nashville iconoclast Butch Walker instead of Thomas’s longtime collaborator Matt Serletic, the dozen-track effort was reportedly shaped by the pop-rocker’s ’80s influences. At times it clearly shows: The lyrics to Timeless, for example, consist mostly of classic song titles like In the Air Tonight, Sister Christian, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Modern Love, Nothing Compares to You, Father Figure and more. It doesn’t stop there: From the retro synth settings and drum machines to the Bittersweet Symphony strings and handclaps that dot these songs, the disc spends almost as much time glancing backward as it does living in the now. Trouble is, it doesn’t truly commit to either era — and by trying to more or less have it both ways, it ends up frustratingly stranded in a slightly strange sonic limbo. Admittedly, the Smooth vocalist’s ultra-commercial melodic sense hasn’t even come close to failing him — several of these songs are every bit as catchy as anything he’s ever released. But ultimately, his friendly but flawed Smile doesn’t give you much you can really sink your teeth into.