After bursting on the alt-rock scene 3 years ago in a loud, brash, "FU!" style, The Maine was seen as a much needed shot in the arm to the pop-punk genre and seemed to be poised to be the foil to the blink-182 like antics and slant of All Time Low. That was very evident in the Arizona alt rockers official album debut in 2008, "Can't Stop, Won't Stop". After an eventful year following that release, John O'Callaghan and Co. found themselves having graduated along with fellow Fearless Records labelmates Mayday Parade graduated to the big leagues (Mayday landed with Atlantic Records). So fans wondered, will that change anything?
Change and BIG change is evident all over in their major label debut, "Black & White", which may end up as one of 2010's more underwhelming, if not disappointing major label debuts. Instead of expanding on their gritty take on alternative and pop/punk, the band has regressed into your standard-issue power pop/rockers complete with standard-issue lyrics that generally undermines the vocal talents of O'Callaghan, who was never known for crafting and singing catchy lyrics. Don't get this reviewer wrong, if you are all into catchy power pop with punkish leanings, then you may find nothing wrong with the album. But pop in "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" or even their "Stay Up, Get Up" and "The Way We Talk" EPs, "Black and White" may leave those looking for that feeling rather empty and disappointed in the change.
No new territory or expansion of previous territory is remotely made in "Black and White", which is also woefully too fast moving at well under 40 minutes. The lyrics in all 10 tracks are either going to be relatable to a majority of its building tween and teen girl crowd or completely silly and inane to the fans who have/had been with the band from their humble beginnings in the deep Arizona alt-rock pool. To this reviewer, the lyrics are miles away from the unchanged gritty pipes of John O'Callaghan and the instrumentation overall sounds like any other power-pop band one might catch on mainstream radio.
One of the four tracks that is worth talking about and by this date of the writing, "Right Girl" has to be beaten down and analyzed at least a million times before this album was released. In the end, its an above decent, radio-friendly track with Butch Walker's obvious fingerprints and production work all over the track. Opener "Don't Stop Now" is another decent track if for its catchiness, but that is up for endless debate between fans. The third track worth discussing is "Inside of You", which maybe as close as this album gets to 2007-era Maine with O'Callaghan's patented gritty rock scream peppered in there every so often.
With that being said, "Black and White" is an aptly titled album. You will either love it to death and defend the album vehemently or you will find plenty of faults with it and generate endless debate. If you are looking for expansion of the territory treaded on "Can't Stop", then prepare to be very disappointed and wonder why you even spent money on iTunes to buy it and download it. But if you're looking into catchy power-pop, then you might add The Maine to your collection. But as far as this reviewer is concerned, this is a very disappointing and generally empty album for a major label debut after such a great official debut album. The sudden 180 degree change in sound and direction would be easier to take with some other bands in their arena, but this was one band this reviewer and probably many others to adapt their hard take on alternative and punk given major label resources and knowledge.
Give them high marks for trying, but this was a generally disappointing effort, save for a song here and there.