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More of the same from Maroon 5

Kevin Noonan | Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not quite rock, a little more than pop and at times drifting towards funk, Maroon 5 has refused to be pinned into a single genre since its inception. And at the same time, one of the consistent criticisms against the band is that all of its songs sound the same. The group’s newest studio album, “Hands All Over,” is no different.

Although lead singer Adam Levine and company try very hard to move their band more distinctively toward the rock genre, the experiment is, for the most part, unsuccessful. Both lyrically and musically, “Hands All Over” is quite similar to the band’s two previous albums.

That’s not to say the album as a whole is unsuccessful. The hooks are catchy without sounding forced, the music is smoothly produced and the lyrics are expressive. Levine’s alternations in delivery between bursting swagger and shaky self-consciousness are skillful and fit well with the different tones and lyrics of each individual song.

The band’s experiment in “Hands All Over” to try and shift their sound is a strategy it had tried on its second album, “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long.” On its debut studio album, “Songs About Jane,” the band worked with Matt Wallace, who has produced albums for Train, Third Eye Blind and O.A.R. For its second album, the band shook things up and turned to Mike Elizondo as producer, who is best known for his work with artists such as Eminen, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre and 50 Cent.

With the lack of success in creating a new sound on that album, the band once again turned to a producer with a radically different skill set than it had seen before: Robert “Mutt” Lange. His producer credits include work with AC/DC and Def Leppard. While the album clearly shows Lange to be a skilled producer in terms of the overall delivery of the music, “Hands All Over” contains no traces of AC/DC.

“That’s all [Lange] is, is big. He goes for huge and international and it was such a refreshing thing to working with someone who really felt we still had something to prove,” Levine said in an interview with MTV.

But the band still knows its sound.

“It sounds like … Maroon 5. What you’re thinking of is what it is,” Levine said in the interview.

As with previous albums, “Hands All Over” is laden with songs that are destined for serious radio time. The first single from the album, “Misery,” reached 17 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.  The album’s second single, “Give a Little More,” conceived in the same vein as previous hits such as “This Love” and “Wake Up Call,” can expect similar results in the coming weeks.

The band will most likely see its greatest chart success and teenage girl approval from a single that has yet to be released, the country cross-over with Lady Antebellum entitled “Out of Goodbyes.” Of all the songs on the album, this one most successfully brings a new feel to the band. It maintains the broken love tone so common to Maroon 5’s repertoire, but by collaborating with country music great Lady Antebellum, the band delivers a unique, surefire hit.

Maroon 5 once again proves to be consistently above average, and does so without providing the music world any shocking revelations. They continue to be Backstreet Boys for grown-ups. Fans of previous albums will be fans of “Hands All Over,” but Maroon 5 won’t be reaching very many new audiences.