Maroon 5’s fourth LP is best when adopting its new-found glam-stomp.
Fraser McAlpine 2010
A brief aside: Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange must have the weirdest production CV of almost anyone in the rock era. Who else has managed to make an astonishing living at the helm of worldwide hit albums from artists as diverse as Def Leppard, AC/DC, The Corrs and Shania Twain?
He is, however, the perfect person to buff up Maroon 5’s lascivious pop, given that Adam Levine clearly fancies himself as something of a dirty old rock star.
The album begins with a puzzle. Misery might be an accomplished pop song, a clear hit, but it’s also 90% based on a hit they’ve already had: This Love. Its provocative placement at the gateway into this album’s garden of sonic delights is clearly designed to send a message – that they’re back and just as good as ever – but it’s not one they needed to bother sending.
The thing is, there ARE sonic delights on offer here. One listen to Out of Goodbyes, a sumptuous country/bossa nova duet with Lady Antebellum, should be proof enough that Maroon 5 know their way around the laboratory in which good pop songs are formulated better than most.
How and Don’t Know Nothing boast deliciously unexpected melodic twists in their choruses: a shrugged cadence of resignation in the latter, a surprise howl to the skies in the former. You have to be good at music to do this kind of thing.
Of course, there’s also a lot of evidence here that hard work, tunesmithery and competence can be a stifling influence. The Jack Johnson soul of I Can’t Lie and the big stadium balladry of Just a Feeling both suffer from a suffocating fug of quality workmanship, at the expense of any kind of personality or fun.
Whereas the rude guitar sleaze of Hands All Over, or the cocky glam-stomp in Stutter’s verses show a band who are really at their best when they play pop music like the sleazy rockers they clearly are. In Adam Levine’s mind, at least.
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