REVIEW: THE MAINE – FOREVER HALLOWEEN

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Reviewed by Mark Plummer

From the beginning of Take What You Can Carry, there is a more indie/rock direction to the songwriting that, along with a more retro and nostalgic sound in the approach of the instrumentation, brings a more risqué yet rewarding approach to the table. If this is The Maine hitting musical maturity, then they are doing it in fine fashion. Whilst there is a strong, overall result on Forever Halloween, this album really takes off from Happy onwards. Making use of a very Feeder like approach, Happy lends its beats to the Summer where the light, yet full of heart group vocals in the back ground, give it the breezy and easy natured attire it requires. The vocal growth stands out head and shoulders above everything else on a release full of superlatives.

Transcending from the standard and generic structure followed by many American bands within the pop-punk/rock field, there is now an edge that has grown from The Maine’s previous release and expanded to offer up something more unique, with a certain Britishness rooting it down.

A slower, more ballad like piece was always inevitable, the interest is in how it has been  approached and what makes it stand out from the crowd. Birthday In Los Angeles fits all the requirements, slow-paced for sure, but it’s the laid back feel that materialises from those Hawaiian ukelele’s, making this track break the mould. Whilst the standard acoustic guitar does make an appearance, it stays clear of center stage and along with some lovely country slides (and a lot of background ambience that gives it a retro sound dating to the 1930s/40s) becomes a fitting filler instrument.

Tracks like Blood Red hark to a cry of the late 60s and early 70s; there’s almost a feeling of a band who could be opening for The Beatles. Whilst the chorus helps to cement their place very much in the here and now, there’s a great feel of history within Blood Red that serves to remind every one of the roots that lie in all music that we take for granted these days. The strong grooves of Sad Songs helps bring an end to a trio of truly remarkable tracks. Making you want to shake your hips and get those dancing shoes on, Sad Songs has plenty to offer. The guitar solo has more soul and feeling than most generic solos, generating feedback that contributes a rustic quality whilst the simplicity makes it both ingenious and rewarding to listen to. It’s a really rad little solo!

It’s rare to be treated to a couple of ballad tracks that combine to be so complete on all fronts and don’t leave listeners tiresome in the lack of pace for a second time. These Four Words mixes it up, giving listeners something completely different than the bog standard, generic and boring acoustic ballad, this piano piece hits on so many different highs. The heavy Elton John style gives it a true feeling of rock and roll whilst being gentle and soft all at once. Not out-of-place, it helps to round off a very complete album with chord progressions that would usually feel alienated, but transform themselves perfectly here.

Whilst this release holds a lot of rawness and very much sits in the mid to treble range, it has flashes of the cleanliness that ponderously features in the modern-day era, helping to keep it rooted and sensible. If Forever Halloween were a movie and this the soundtrack, it’s hard not to picture this “movie” being recorded on old and low-budget 16mm tape, adding to it’s charming appeal of a release that doesn’t need to try excessively hard, it’s just a great and solid album that should be heard by the masses.

4½ out of 5

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