Despite having the unfortunate pedigree of being part of the post Something Corporate trashcan of emo-soaked piano/pop punk bands that peddled their wares through the mid 00s, Arizona rockers The Maine may have what it takes to actually shake off this terrible stigma. Fearless Records, once a flagbearer of great punk rock, became the hotbed of All Time Low-type tween pop rock that included The Maine- and it was tough to get the stink off. Now four albums deep, The Maine have graduated much the same way Andrew McMahon did, and on Forever Halloween, they sound much more like a hybrid Augustana/Jack’s Mannequin than All Time Low contemporaries; more mature and seasoned.
From the opening salvo of “Take What You Can Carry”, it’s clear that The Maine are more interested in expanding their pop rock sound; layering their music with better crafted songwriting and a knack for being accessible without sounding sugary. In the rather beautiful sounding “White Walls”, the band have found the perfect blend of piano-strewn melodies and radio ready sentimentality. It is composure on songs like this, “Love and Drugs”, and “Blood Red” that cements the notion that the band is perfectly capable of writing adult contemporary with an edge, and perhaps are ready to take their music to the next level.
However, the melancholy tone of “These Four Words” and the song’s rather sparse aura are unfortunately ruined by its lyrical juvenilia (“I should really just go home and play with myself”). And innuendo or not, its jarring lyrical wordplay is really against the rather more mature feel of the rest of the album (and more specifically this otherwise decent song). It is missteps like this that have you wondering if maybe they haven’t quite let go of their beginnings just yet. There’s a lot of good on this album. It is easily their most composed and self-assured release to date, it’s just a few steps short from becoming what would cement them as serious contenders in the pop rock field. Close, but not quite yet, but heading in the right direction.