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Album Review

Rob Thomas, 'Cradlesong'

June 29, 2009
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Pop
Rob Thomas Cradlesong
Atlantic/Emblem
ESSENTIAL “Mockingbird’’

Rob Thomas feels your pain. And because the likable singer-songwriter is able to articulate that feeling in a way that is more eloquent than your average victim of heartbreak - but is not quite as artful as some of his more complex songwriting superiors - and with a catchy tune to boot, Rob Thomas is a rock star. The Matchbox Twenty frontman’s second solo album showcases all of his admirable middle-of-the-road gifts and offers a glimpse of the possibilities when he explores the more extreme edges. As usual, “cradlesong’’ is mostly a collection of sensitive-guy songs. The ones that work best juxtapose his imagery - an offer of a shoulder to cry on, a portrait of romantic disarray - with a snappy, restless groove. The INXS-like dance rocker “Give Me the Meltdown’’ is all sinewy guitars and growling pleas to offer assistance to the worn-down soul. Sympathy and snazzy looped beats are extended to a downtrodden soul suffering a quarter-life crisis on “Real World ’09.’’ And the poor couple coming apart during “Mockingbird’’ might be tempted to sing along to the instantly hummable lite-rock jam if they weren’t already imploding. Thomas gets creative with decorations for his shimmery pop musings: a little tribal drumming here, some burping synths there, a smattering of gospel-inspired backing vocals everywhere. And while those flourishes enhance the best tracks, they can’t camouflage the shortcomings of the others. (Out tomorrow) SARAH RODMAN