Songs About Jane

Maroon 5

Octone Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The seventies-funk keyboards, the understated r & b electric guitar, the smoldering, sublimely soulful vocals -- if these guys aren't Stevie Wonder fans, I really need to quit this gig.

My first impression of Maroon 5 -- courtesy of the single "Harder to Breathe" -- was simply of a modern pop-rock singles band with a sound that stood out. They were smooth without being slick, muscular without being heavy, didn't rely on beefy guitars or clichéd lyrics, and had a singer who put some artistry into his performance. Burrowing into this album over time, though, introduced me to a band -- James Valentine on guitar, Jesse Carmichael on keys, Mickey Madden on bass, Ryan Dusick on drums and Adam Levine on lead vocals -- that has one foot in the past and one in the future, and has figured out how to bridge the two in a form that consistently entertains.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Take, for example, "Sunday Morning," one of the best cuts here. You might expect a song about morning-after contentment to feel languid, but Dusick, Madden, Valentine and Carmichael set a deep, sweet groove here that leaves Levine to decorate the upper register with his nimble, expressive vocals, full of swerving, exuberant Wonder-isms. Sunny harmonies and a funked-out bridge round out this fairly brilliant piece of pop-soul songsmithing.

This is hardly a one-note band, though. The leadoff cut (and leadoff single) "Harder To Breathe" is a steamy rocker; the slinky synth/acoustic guitar opening to "Secret" sets the mood beautifully; and old-school keyboards -- clavinet and Hammond, mostly, from the sound of it -- add spice and texture to jamming numbers like "The Sun."

Less imaginative cuts like "This Love" and "Not Coming Home" veer dangerously close to boy-band dynamics in places, but still throw off undeniable energy. And while it might not be the most original track here, "She Will Be Loved" is surely one of the prettiest love songs of the young century, buoyed by Levine's brilliant use of falsetto on the chorus.

The story goes that the lyrics of these Songs About Jane all grew out of a breakup experienced by Levine. It must have been quite a relationship, as these tracks feature an often Marvin Gaye-like focus on the perils and rewards of physical passion (ex: "I tried my best to feed her appetite / Keep her coming every night"; "Fingers trace your every outline / Paint a picture with my hands").

After seeing these guys perform "Sunday Morning" on The Today Show, though, I have to say that the most remarkable thing about them is watching four young white guys lay down a killer r & b groove as the voice of a born soul singer emerges from the body of a skinny Jewish kid. The Red Hot Chili Peppers' remake of the Stevie Wonder classic "Higher Ground" transformed the song almost completely. A Maroon 5 version might be tough to tell from the original until you opened your eyes -- and that's far from a criticism.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-



© 2005 Jason Warburg 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.