Maps and Legends.
Marooned with musical mediocrity by album five. That was the threat to Adam Levine's band of Kara's Flower brothers in todays pop culture. 'This Love' or 'She Will Be Loved', those decade and change old classic 'Songs About Jane' could only take the boys so radio rotating rapidly far. Especially after their five year hiatus later 'It Won't Be Soon Before Long' sophomore slumping, but still sweet sounding follow up album hit the skids. Album number three, 'Hands All Over' pulled them back, especially when it was restocked with their biggest to date, monster, annoyingly catchy single 'Moves Like Jagger'. Then their last album, the tongue-in-cheek titled 'Overexposed' dialled up some more hits for the band routing for change with the Wiz Khalifa call and rap response collect, 'Payphone'. Still there still felt like there was something missing for a Police/Prince hybrid band that looked to change the face and ears of a watered down pop industry before they became a little diluted themselves, invoking a feeling of drinking cordial after mouthwash. It seemed like one day these guys where winning Grammy's and writing stellar songs for Spider-Man soundtracks (the wonderful 'Woman') and the next they where replaced like Tobey Maguire for something more 'amazing' in this app, reboot demand age. Still throughout all this and a dirty laundry list of b-sides and soundtrack spots, Adam and his apples have not lost their bite to give up, still striving and surviving like these September Summer serenades. Now Maroon V go for their fifth Roman numeral album (sixth if you count their original named Kara's Flowers 'Fourth World' album...and so you should). That's the relevant title. You didn't think Levine was displaying his V-card did you? This guy makes Mayer look like a monk.
The opening journey of 'Maps' leads this band to their latest chart destination of billboard top spots with repeated, radio airplay. Although on the face of it so radio friendly its meekly sedate, this new big hit gets better over time with its audience sinker hook and bottom line. Add this as another melodic, pop magic sleeper that finds its home on playlists and mixtapes from dorms to office cubicles for an audience that's grown with this band. The new blonde bomber Levine's ability to write a classic chorus and even save a meandering one with a few key changes in the harmony of a few magic moments make him a songwriting game changer. He knows how to write as many hits as his Voice co-judge Pharrell Williams of 'Happy', every other song on the radio after fame. As a matter of fact there's probably a good half dozen picks here that contestants will use as their face-song audition for more than just the curried favour of obligation. There's the pop predator 'Animals' and the sure fire pop pouting punch of 'Unkiss Me' and its "if you respect me/dont protect me" lyrics. Six songs none the richer there's also the soundtrack score scorching of the electropop effervescent 'It Was Always You' and the sweet 'Sugar' that is a saccarine charm of catchiness. Still it's the standout 'Leaving California' that shows this band is best coast, Los Angeles, summertime pure more than their neon, desert, Killer artwork. As Levine laments "Even if the sun crashes up to us/I won't let go, I won't let go/And I can be your light/stay with me tonight" he lays down their best in years. This is as California as white tee's and Levis. This is a song that will be the soundtrack accompaniment to graduating kids hitting the road out of the sunshine state everywhere. With more oohs to ahh at this is a song in the classic album track 'Beautiful Goodbye', 'Just A Feeling' vain this will be set to repeat as much as other tracks are set to skip. This writer himself knowing the bittersweet memory of lamenting a lost love to the playing of 'Goodnight, Goodnight' back in the 2007, 'It Wont Be Soon Before Long' time.
Still this album like the three that preceded it and followed Jane suffers from starting strong before dragging out all too long. This is something that will one day translate into the perfect playlist for a greatest hits shuffle, but as of right now is an issue that is crucial in addressing like out of town invoices as they map their own legacy. Especially if these guys in this modern day, cherry picking digital age want to make the distinguishable difference between a download or purchase. Its not that the latter portion of this project is bad. As a matter of fact for all their tracks and criticisms I couldn't name you a 'bad' M5 record. It's just that its simply filler in comparison to the formidable opening. 'In Your Pocket' could be a spiritual sequel to 'Payphone' but they have a better song in their back one. 'New Love' gets the idea and 'Coming Back For You' is coloured in a trademark shade of off-red so much so that you could find it on any of the 5 Maroon albums. Although almost like a parody name of one of this bands songs 'Feelings' offers more sensation, before the closer 'My Heart Is Open' leaves no room for doubt thanks to a welcome hollaback from pops number one girl Gwen Stefani for a duet that matches the Christina collaboration diva for better. A V times two of top ten tracks seems just as right as the third bowl of porridge but some deluxe offerings will be a cosy bed for the die-hards but a too much weight, broken chair to the more casual observers and listeners. Still 'Shoot Love' has more heart from the hip, whilst Adam Levine's 'Lost Stars' is as welcome as the return of old friend and Maroon lifer Jesse Carmichael to the band. Still it's the 'Sex and Candy' of a swansong that matches the promising pedal start of this album. If the band can buff the fluff they'll be dusting off classic records to come that will make them more than just mature pop saviours of a Savage Garden of true, mad depth in a diluted, drowning industry of downloads but a band that will be as remembered as much as Jane in years time. Time to add a compass to the map. TIM DAVID HARVEY