When The Maine released their first full-length album in 2008, they were a pop-rock group proclaiming their love in anthems about “girls who don’t know what’s up,” with the energy, sound and popularity of the next “it” band. In fact, I distinctly remember the aggressive crowd of screaming girls lusting after John O’Callaghan’s bare torso at Warped Tour ’09. I was one of those high school girls dancing and screaming back the lyrics “girls do what they want / boys do what they can,” with my friends and feeling the connection to the upbeat tempos and juvenile lyrics.
It’s almost crazy to think that back to just about four years ago and compare The Maine to who they are today.
Since the release of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, The Maine has revolutionized their sound to a more alternative style. By lining up their discography and listening to a few tracks off each album in order of release, the only way to tell that they are the same band is O’Callaghan’s distinctive raspy voice. Their follow-up album, Black & White, was their first (and last) album released off a major record label and turned out to be a disappointment to loyal fans.
Honestly, at that point I gave up on the band, thinking they would never return to the same spirit and energy they had when I first fell in love with them.
I was proved wrong with the 2011 independently released Pioneer, which introduced listeners to a new sound that is hardly comparable to songs like “Into Your Arms” and “Inside of You.” Instead it portrays a redefined image of The Maine that showcases their true creativity. (If you don’t believe me, listen to “Misery.”)
This brings us to their current June release, Forever Halloween, that follows the band’s new hybrid alternative direction that is nothing like today’s generation is used to.
After a first listen, it’s clear that this record reflects an originality proving the band has returned to their love of writing and making music. The opening of “Take What You Can Carry” brings a somewhat eerie harmony and picks up tempo into an upbeat chorus, repeating the lyrics “you’ll get what you paid for.” The next few tracks, “Love & Drugs” and “Run” are okay but forgettable. They follow similar tempos that lead into the slow-paced “White Walls,” which reflects a sound I think The Maine are truly talented with. A light piano melody combined with the soft sounds of guitar and drums lead into a quiet chorus focusing on O’Callaghan’s mellow speech that ends with a progressive energy that carries into the next track, “Happy.”
While I do enjoy and respect the maturity displayed in the last two independently released albums, I do miss the fun, bubbly energy that The Maine first had when they came into the music scene. Forever Halloween is an exceptional record that holds a range of alternative beats from slow ballads to catchy singles, however it does lack a bit of liveliness.
There are a few tracks on this album that make a mark. Most songs are a bit boring, where I can stay entertained by nodding through the chorus. The band shows its true skill through songs like “Birthday In Los Angeles” and “These Four Words” where I feel the emotion is fully expressed in the clashing styles of easy piano, edgy guitar and even a little ukulele.
But the song I feel that makes this record truly significant is the ending title track, “Forever Halloween.” It begins with a soft acoustic introduction illustrating a higher range of voice for O’Callaghan – who sticks to a mellow monotone through almost the entire record – and erupts into a space-like guitar vibe. Lyrics like “so you be brave and I’ll still be 18,” offer a double meaning into the definition of Halloween. The track’s spooky feel carries into an electric guitar solo and ends with a cut-off recording, which I think adds to the creepy composition. It holds the powerful dynamic that defines and ties together not only the record, but the direction The Maine has chosen to turn to.
For those of you who, like me, lost hope in the pop-rock band some years ago, take a listen to Forever Halloween and see how the band you loved in high school has grown into a unique rock n’ roll sound.