The Maine - Black & White
Record Label: Warner Brothers Records
Release Date: July 13, 2010
"She's fresh to death, she'll be the death of me."
Those ten words were what started my dislike of The Maine back when they released their The Way We Talk EP in 2008. That line is terrible, and the group's bland and boring official debut album, Can't Stop, Won't Stop followed suit for me. When news came around that The Maine were in the studio writing a new record, I was hardly interested and, as I recall, even went as far as to post a throw-up face emoticon in the news thread. Meanwhile, Keagan Ilvonens and kidchinos around the country were eagerly anticipating The Maine's new output, which was advertised as something very different from Can't Stop, Won't Stop. That advertising campaign worked wonders over me and after hearing the rock and roll-driven "Inside of You", I began to really and truly anticipate hearing this record. I was hoping for a record full of catchy rock songs, even if they all had pointless and painstakingly terrible lyrics.
Well, all of these advertisements of change weren't entirely true. While The Maine did change their sound on Black & White, one thing did not change.....this band is still just not very good. On their first release for Warner Brothers Records, the Phoenix, Arizona pop rockers do well to attempt a fresh, new sound, but end up falling short. While the attempt is admirable and shows a certain amount of maturation in a band that I once considered the headliners of Fearless Records' teeny-bopper armada, the new, more deliberate rock and roll sound doesn't really suit this band.
Frontman John O'Callaghan has the pipes for this style, but isn't at the lyrical level to back up the change, while the rest of the group seemingly suffer from a lack of creativity and true chemistry. Tracks like "Fuel to the Fire" and "Listen to Your Heart" come across as oddly arranged while others like "Every Road" and "Color" are just plain boring.
Black & White features a variety of co-writers on certain tracks, which prove to be hit-or-miss. In total, six songs on this record were written by someone or a group of people who were brought in to help. "Right Girl" has Butch Walker's fingerprints all over it, and even though the lyrics aren't good it may prove to be my guilty pleasure song of 2010. Ridiculously infectious with a sing-along chorus, it's a track like this that makes me wonder why Black & White is so bad as a whole. Following is "Growing Up", co-written by David Bassett (who most recently worked with VersaEmerge on their latest record), and this is another one of the stronger songs on the album. It becomes somewhat anthemic with cries of "Growing up won't bring us down", and again highlights The Maine's ability to deliver tasty choruses over a generic pop rock sound. Finally, Mark Weinberg comes in to co-write lead single "Inside of You", the most rocking number here and perhaps the most quality track. The sugar is poured on during the verses and the bridge is fun to sing along to.
These three tracks are very clearly the outliers on Black & White, as they are basically the only three that I can listen to past the first chorus. Opener "Don't Stop Now" is decent and "Give It to Me" is bearable, but literally half of this album is worthless filler. Considering the number of co-writers, The Maine don't appear to be very confident in their own songwriting, and plenty of songs on Black & White support these concerns.
It's important to note how excited I was to hear this record; The Maine are one of those bands that people will suspect writers of bashing just to bash them, but I was anticipating my first listen of Black & White for several weeks before finally being able to hear it. This year has already held plenty of surprises, with quality releases coming out of the woodwork from bands that I would never have expected. Hoping The Maine would follow this trend, I came away utterly disappointed after several listens to Black & White. To put it bluntly, The Maine are the latest group from our scene to suffer from not being a good band. They have the right idea and at times put it all together to make a couple of enjoyable songs, but as a whole Black & White will go down as a forgettable release in a year full of good music.