The Maine are a staple pop-punk band that always seem to be overlooked by people. With the likes of All Time Low dominating the scene (amongst many other bands), The Maine just casually play in the shadows. This is not to say the band isn’t good – they are actually a fantastic band. I remember getting hooked on them with the release of Pioneer. I used to, and still do, play that album at full volume on a hot summer’s day or even a cold winter’s day when I feel like warming myself up through poorly executed interpretative dance.
Last year, they released their fourth album Forever Halloween which was an enormous departure from the upbeat sound that was present on Pioneer. Instead they went after an alternative rock sound tinged with pop-punk hooks. This gave birth to songs like the indie rock styled “Blood Red”, alternative rock anthem “Run”, the soaring “Forever Halloween” and the tragically beautiful “These Four Words”. It was an album that showed the bands maturity – they had been around for a couple of years by then. It also showed the bands talent as songwriters. This year, the band is releasing Forever Halloween as a deluxe edition with 5 new songs so I have decided to review the album but only focus on those 5 new songs (think of it as an EP review).
“So Criminal” is a return to The Maine’s signature pop-punk sound that they perfected on Pioneer. It kicks off with a tasty guitar lick that progresses into a steady, chugging guitar riff supported by a throbbing bass line. The build-up to the chorus is imbued with the twinkling of piano keys before bursting into a hook-packed chorus. John O’Callaghan’s vocals are brilliant as per usual as he spews lyrics about breaking up with somebody. An aspect that I love is the return of Kennedy Brock’s faded out and semi-screamed backing vocals which an edge of aggression to the song. Also, the bridge is absolutely massive. It creates this edgy tension with distorted guitar riffs and crashing drums before exploding into the chorus.
“Vanilla” is more of an alternative rock ballad-styled song. It follows the same formula as most the songs on Forever Halloween except there is a twist – the chorus is a pop-punk chorus at heart with O’Callaghan pouring his heart out backed by tasty pop-punk guitar licks that will get you hooked on this song. O’Callaghan drops spiteful lyrics about the things he dislikes about somebody, quite possibly a girl. He spews the brilliant lyric – “You’re boring, complacent / At your best, you’re still basic / You’re everything I hate about our youth”.
“Ugly on the Inside” is pop-punk as well…pop-punk. Spiteful lyrics, check. Song about disliking a pretty girl because she is a terrible person, check. Catchy guitar licks, check. Amazing vocals, check. Yeah, The Maine threw together the perfect pop-punk song. It may be a bit mellow but it has parts when it is full of spunk and life. I honestly love this song as it plays with the whole stereotype of the “pretty bitch” – A girl who is beautiful but has the personality of a hyena.
“Bliss” is tied with “So Criminal” as being my favorite song out of the five. “Bliss” collides the worlds of pop-punk and alternative rock together by combing alt-rock guitar riffs with pop-punk guitar riffs. I love this little synthed out guitar sound that crops on some parts of the song and this small clap of the snare drum. It is the little things that The Maine do that makes them such a great band. They’d put a faint electronic tinge onto a guitar solo to make it seem a bit more edgy or they’d quickly apply synth to the piano medley underlying the song.
The final song is what the band describes as their “Pink Floyd” song. “Ice Cave” is a very spacey song that is quite different from the rest. It has elements of stoner rock-meets-indie rock with an alt-rock feeling to it. In my honest opinion, it feels like a very melodramatic song and isn’t as great as the rest of the new songs released on the deluxe edition. Although, it is a brilliant song and has a moment when all hell breaks loose and it loses its mellow tempo and thunders to an end in a very blues-rock fashion.
To sum it all up – I am really happy that The Maine decided to return to a more pop-punk sound on these five new songs released. It makes me think that their next album may try to combine the pop-punk element with the alternative rock element to create an absolutely massive sounding album. Rules for playing this album – play it loud, play it with friends and be sure to dance with somebody on the slow songs.