Rock From Concentrate
Hey, what could be stranger than a band mimicking the sound of Jamiroquai, with just a bit of dilution? After all, that band diluted the Stevie Wonder influence into their own one hit wonder moment and then went largely ignored when they struck a disco pose on their last album. Someone should tell Maroon 5 about this, because it’s hard to imagine them getting too far with their current sound.
These guys used to be known as Kara’s Flowers and played a competent version of alternative pop that was decent but was easily overlooked. Now the head scratcher is why they decided to go the lite funk route and deciding to ape a band that already capitalized on the very same sound some years ago. Front man Adam Levine sounds so much like Jason Kay on this album that one could be forgiven for thinking that Jamiroquai had slid down the pipes a little further.
And it’s not that Songs About Jane is bad, but there’s simply nothing here to get excited about. The band (with Levine and James Valentine on guitar, Jesse Carmichael on keyboards, Mickey Madden on bass, and Ryan Dusick on drums) sounds very well-rehearsed with Levine’s voice hitting all the right notes and the guitars injecting just enough “rock” into the mix when things get too soulful. And what about that soul that these guys are boasting about, anyway?
Well, it’s limp at best. The guitar work is mainly boiled down to the funky kind of strut that groups like the Backstreet Boys are known for when they’re “getting down”. Yeah, that’s right, the Backstreet Boys. In fact, “Shiver” sounds like the Boys mixed with a dash of Prince. But didn’t “Backstreet’s Back” cop a lot from His Royal Badness in its own weird way? So here we are again faced with facsimile of a facsimile. Frankly, it’s just plain weird to hear some of these tunes as they’re so blatantly unoriginal.
When the guitars aren’t in full effect, it’s Jesse Carmichael’s keyboards that take center stage. On tracks such as “This Love” and “Must Get Out”, Carmichael manages to conjure up both the productions of Britney Spears and The New Radicals respectively. So what are these guys all about? Do they want a respective soul bid, or are they just reworking the pop candyfloss formula with a “real band”? It’s hard to say.
It isn’t hard to imagine this album getting a bit of airplay, however. It should be just the thing for those who feel they are above the boy bands yet still dig a highly commercialized sound. There are plenty of things here that could be hits, most notably the aforementioned “Must Get Out”, along with MTV ready ballad “She Will Be Loved” that cops its pose from Sting and Boyz II Men in smooth music and bland romantic lyrical execution, and “Sunday Morning” that sounds like the kind of pop Harry Connick, Jr. released on his She album.
But it always comes back to Levine’s voice, be it a ghost of Jason Kay’s or Stevie Wonder’s, there’s just no denying the comparison. That’s ultimately too bad because it feels as if these songs could do a lot more with someone else who didn’t sound like either of those two singers. But Maroon 5 won’t ever be mistaken for having laid down any real rock or soul on this album. One listen to the forced funk and “tough” guitars on “Through With You” proves these guys are lightweights when it gets down to it.
There’ll be enough listeners who enjoy this sound and will probably buy a few copies of Songs About Jane and Maroon 5 may even see themselves with a minor hit on their hands. But like so many other groups of late, this band doesn’t break any new ground or take any real chances on this album. For the moment, it seems viable and safe to retread various forms of pop music these days, but when the next musical revolution comes around, it’s a safe bet that none of these guys will be surviving it. Enjoy this one while (or if) it lasts.
// Notes from the Road
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