As much as Nirvana typified early 90’s rock music, so Matchbox Twenty came to represent the musical spirit of the decade’s latter half. Like all of modern music’s most significant practitioners, the band built a bridge between two styles (in this case the moody growlings of post-grunge and the melodic bravado of arena rock), and in doing so, expanded the audience for both.

Emerging from the Orlando area in late ’96, Rob Thomas and company clearly demonstrated that there was more going on under the Florida sun than just boy bands. Unfortunately, they had flown in under the critical radar, and barely registered as one-hit wonders on the strength of their song Push. But as the saying goes, talent will out (whatever the hell that means exactly), and their debut album Yourself or Someone Like You shot to the middle of the charts and just hung on and hung on, spawning single after single… 3am, Back 2 Good, Real World… until by 1998 it had gone platinum five times, and then doubled that by the turn of the millennium.

Thomas also made quite a splash when the song Smooth, which he co-wrote and performed with Santana, became the big summer hit of ’99, not only spurring sales of Santana’s Supernatural album, but serving as yet another shot in the arm for the trusty Yourself.

Matchbox Twenty has three albums out now, and they continue touring extensively, as always. Whether or not they are ever officially recognized as the essential band of the last decade, their grassroots popularity is what really strikes the match. Ignore this smoke; listen to their music and you’ll catch the flame.