Songs About Jane

Maroon 5

Octone Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Every so often, a friend recommends a song to me, I listen to it, and I say to myself, "Self, you should listen to radio more often."

Being the huge fan of classic rock that I am, I rarely turn my radio to stations like KISS FM. In fact, I rarely listen to radio at all. The risk in going through with that plan is that you will miss out on some good material. Exhibit A: Maroon 5.

In this new "garage rock" age, with bands like Jet, The Strokes, The Vines bringing back that classic rock sound to the forefront of the music scene, Maroon 5 would seem out of place. Maroon 5 most certainly does not emulate the styles of those previously mentioned bands. Songs About Jane is closer to a Backstreet Boys album than, say, Highly Evolved. However, that's a Backstreet Boys album with an edge to it.

Many critics and fans have compared the sound of Maroon 5 to the Rock/R&B blend legends like Stevie Wonder put out in the 70's. I won't go that far. While frontman/guitarist Adam Levine's vocals do sometimes resemble those of Wonder, and the album does have a slight R&B feel to it, it is nowhere close to works like my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Innervisions or Talking Book. Yet fear not fans, I come to praise Maroon 5, not to bury them.

Songs About Jane's leadoff track, "Harder to Breathe" is one of the catchiest singles I have heard in a long time. This is one funky track, which at times reminded me of Wonder's "Superstition". Levine spits out every word with passion, makes every last bit of the lyric seem just as important as the other. There's even a decent guitar solo at the end. This is the song that broke the band to the public, and it's easy to see why. The follow-up single, "This Love" is where Maroon 5 ventures off into the boy band territory. There's nothing wrong with the song, the beat and chorus will be stuck in your head forever after hearing them, but after "Harder to Breathe" you expect more. With "Harder to Breathe" Maroon 5 gives us a glimpse of what the band is capable of, but they fail to recapture the magic for most of the remainder of the album.

The one shining example of proof to the contrary is "Not Coming Home." The song is live, but that doesn't matter (in all honesty, I've never heard more "studio sounding" live recording). It has the same edge of "Harder to Breathe" albeit at a slower tempo. The opening again features some very funky guitar riffs. The musicianship on the album is not spectacular, but it isn't bad either. It really is Levine who stands out, and makes the album work. Without him, Maroon 5 would not succeed.

These days, good lyrics are hard to come by. Maroon 5 is no exception. These are run of the mill lyrics, nothing special. It is the performances by Levine that give the lyrics are legitimacy of sorts. You would think after hearing lines like, "I want to make you feel beautiful," or " You ain't coming back to me," the effectiveness of the songs would diminish. Not so. Songs About Jane is full of clichés, but it doesn't matter. Maroon 5 draws you in with their melodies, not their lyrics.

The problem most people have with Songs About Jane is the lack of variety. Once you get to track number 4, you've pretty much heard all the songs. Normally, I would blast an album that does this, but Songs About Jane is different. The songs are produced so well, and sound so good, but one's like or dislike of the album depends on how much you like the Maroon 5 "formula." I have always been a sucker for well produced pop/rock, and this is no exception. However, for future releases, I would advise the band to shake things up a little. They have the potential, now they just have to act upon it.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-



© 2004 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Octone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.