26 October 2010

Maroon 5, Hands All Over (2010): Album Review

Maroon 5. We’ve all crooned to their hits “She Will Be Loved” and “Won’t Go Home Without You” on the radio with the windows down and stereo up. Originally known as Kara’s Flowers, this group of Los Angeles high schoolers struggled to find success throughout the mid-1990’s. It wasn’t until 2002 when they changed their name to Maroon 5 and released their debut album, Songs About Jane, that the band exploded—dominating the Billboard charts and winning the Grammy for “Best New Artist.” Their sophomore album, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, brought the group even more acclaim—shattering iTunes sales records, and transforming them into international superstars. Now, we anxiously wait to see where the new album entitled Hands All Over will take the group. Recorded in Switzerland in 2009 with the help of Robert Lange—producer for such bands as AC/DC and Nickelback—frontman Adam Levine has described the album as a “hybrid” of their last two; highlighting the best elements of each, while branching out into some rock and even country territory.

The album begins with “Misery”—the funky single released earlier this summer, bringing to mind the feel-good thumping of their early hit “This Love,” with a bit more of a disco-esque flair. “Stutter” brings a taste of twangy rock to the album, while still maintaining that breezy, light-hearted feel that Maroon 5 is so well loved for. Another tune, “Don’t Know Nothing,” almost has a 50’s jukebox feel to it; although a solid effort, I could only imagine how it’d sound if the likes of Amy Winehouse got a chance to tackle it. “Never Gonna Leave This Bed” is the quintessential morning-after ballad with sweet and simple lyrics, which are highlighted even moreso in the acoustic version featured on the Deluxe Edition of the disk. The title track, “Hands All Over,” features a bit of an angry rock edge very similar to that of “Wake Up Call” on their previous album. The best track on a whole, in my opinion, is definitely “How.” The group lays off the heavy guitar riffs and drums to showcase the piano some more, bringing Levine’s impressive falsetto and the catchy earnestness of the chorus to the forefront. And I guess entitling your song “Runaway” automatically makes it good—first Kanye with his new tune at the VMA’s, and now Maroon 5 with their upbeat song of the same name which showcases some gospel influences. The band slows it down with some easy bongo drum beats for their surprisingly good country collaboration with hot new artist, Lady Antebellum—perfectly meshing together Levine and Hilary Scott’s stellar vocals. The bonus tracks included on the Deluxe Edition are also all very worth the extra 5 dollars paid for the album. “Last Chance” plays like a dark tango ballad, while “No Curtain Call” is yet some more gloomy fare about the crumbling of a relationship with a lively, catchy chorus. The acoustic version of “Misery” is also definitely worth a listen and helps wrap up the album on a mellow, soulful note. Like any album, Hands All Over is not without its weak links. Their second single“Give A Little More” seems more suited for the 70’s discothèques of the ABBA generation, and “Get Back In My Life” just has a very strange vibe with no definite chorus or song structure in general.

So, do I think this is an album worth buying? Absolutely, and I’ve already listened to it nearly all the way through 4 times since I’ve purchased it. There are no real “standout” songs, which serves good for the album on a whole, but doesn’t bode so well for its future on the radio waves. Levine has also stated his plan to make 1 more album with the band before dismembering. Already 3 for 3 in my book, let’s hope for a solid finish to the irresistible and catchy era of Maroon 5.

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