Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Maine album review

The Maine
Black & White
(Sire/Action Theory)
Grade: B

A large ‘M’ adorns the cover of Black & White. It represents The Maine’s logo, but could also apply to a somewhat mature musical and lyrical direction for the young Phoenix alt-pop band whose rabid fan base propelled the rousing 2008 indie debut Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop into the top 40.

Last time around, a couple tracks utilized piano and organ; those instruments are far more prevalent on this major label bow. Profanities are downplayed since vocalist John O’Callaghan and company co-wrote half the tunes with seasoned tunesmiths like Gregg Wattenberg (Train, Daughtry) and Butch Walker.

The latter assisted on “Right Girl,” an infectious, synth happy song about saying dumb things while inebriated to “the kind of girl you steal from the captain of the football team” and later regretting it.

Heightened vocal arrangements - a frequent trademark of hitmaking producer Howard Benson - are particularly evident during the soaring, wistful Bon Jovi-esque “Growing Up.” The same can be said for the strident guitar thrust of “Fuel to the Fire,” where O’Callaghan sings of racy cell phone pics and the thrill of the chase. Sleek harmonies recall Eighties chart topper Huey Lewis & the News.

Elsewhere, “Give it to Me” is a sexually charged, classic rock radio influenced singalong (replete with mini rap) and album closer “Color” has an earthy quality along the lines of Goo Goo Dolls. A solid, but not consistently engaging effort.

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