Sound — 6
The aptly titled Black & White, The Maine's sophomore album, is in many ways a fairly straightforward, no-frills offering. Musically the Tempe, Arizona, band feels comfortable in a one particular niche, and rarely if ever do they stray from a certain formula. Black & White is a pop rock album through and through, and while there are some pleasant guitar lines or harmonies along the way, there isn't a lot of thinking outside of the box. When it comes down to it, this is a band that is geared toward a younger, crowd that thrives on Romeo and Julie tales of love.
Don't Stop Now kicks the 10-track CD off, providing what many of the other tracks do as well: toe-tapping rhythms and big, hummable choruses. The audio quality is top-notch thanks to the handy work of production mastermind Howard Benson, and all of the instrumentation blends beautifully. The Maine does incorporate effective organ parts (and piano at times), and that does add a bit more depth to a fairly basic, chord-driven style of pop rock.
The Maine usually switches between two gears: the mellow, almost adult contemporary style of pop rock (oddly enough) and introspective, mellow tunes. It's not that they don't do either one of these well, it's just been done better before by the likes of The Wallflowers or even The Goo Goo Dolls. What the band does have is a more endearing factor toward a teenage crowd, and the lyrical content and charismatic delivery is essentially the main factors that will aid in The Maine's success.
Growing Up strips it all down to primarily an acoustic, clean lead, and vocals in the beginning moments, and it actually makes for a more engaging sound. While the track eventually builds with multiple layers, that first restrained minute is a refreshing one. The band is offering a few more acoustic numbers as digital bonus tracks, and those are certainly welcome additions. Because lead work is never truly the central focus on any of The Maine's songs, they might as well venture into more bare bones acoustic territory.
Lyrics — 7
Within the lyrical content is truly where you understand who The Maine's audience is. Whether vocalist John O' Callaghan is detailing forbidden love a la Romeo and Juliet in Listen To Your Heart (We're too young, this is never gonna work; That's what they say, You're going to get hurt'; But I know something they don't) or reflecting on future life as a full-fledged adult in Growing Up (Graduate; What's a kid to do now? Get away; You've got so much to prove), Black & White is completely marketed toward a middle school and high school crowd. If you don't make up part of that audience, you're going to be left feeling a little unsatisfied and possibly old.
Overall Impression — 7
The Maine is likable enough, but the band doesn't deliver anything new. For the right audience, the band will be embraced with plenty of high school crushes to go around. As far as catchy pop rock songs go, Black & White works reasonably well. But if you need a bit more than the usual power chords and happy, harmony-fueled choruses, you'll have to listen elsewhere.