Ever since Maroon 5 arrived in 2002 with its multi-platinum debut “Songs About Jane,” the group has blended pop, rock and funk in a pleasing, but unedgy fashion. For third album, “Hands All Over” (and its first since 2007″s “It Won”t Be Soon Before Long”) the quintet enlisted producer Mutt Lange, best known for his work with Def Leppard and Shania Twain, who brings a pristine, high-gloss sheen to the band”s already crisp sound.
First single, “Misery,” took some time to grow on me, but the Top 10 hit showcases the best of Maroon 5: nimble, clean playing, catchy choruses and lead singer Adam Levine”s distinctive, high-pitched vocals. As evidenced since the band”s first hit, “This Love,” Maroon 5″s strength is its light touch. The members” instruments seem to skip happily over the melodies in a way that some bands would confuse with lack of abiity. Instead, Maroon 5 is canny enough to know what each song needs and brings a fun bounce to the tracks.
The group”s weak point remains its lyrics, which are fairly forgettable, run the gamut from love found, love lost, love found again, and seldom rise about standard pop cliche. (Levine saves the drama for the band”s psycho-sexual videos, some notions of which we wish he”d reserve for his therapist).
Therefore, it”s best to judge Maroon 5 primarily on the songs” feel and tone and there”s plenty on “Hands All Over” to keep the listener”s toes tapping, including “Stutter,” a nice, breezy shuffler, and “Don”t Know Nothin,”” a catchy, instant earworm of a song that has a bit of a Motown feel. It”s the best thing on the album. There”s nothing here that”s terrible, by any means, but there”s also nothing here that made me crave more Maroon 5.
For better or worse (and for us, it”s always been better), Lange”s signature is his ability to make a huge, layered pop sound and that is largely absent here, save two tunes. The title track, “Hands All Over” is a heavy thump of a song that sounds pure Lange with a big kick drum propelling it forward. “How” features a more layered sound that is vintage Lange. Maroon 5 also moves out of its comfort zone–easily so– on “Out of Goodbyes,” a lovely mid-tempo ballad featuring Lady Antebellum that will work on current country radio as well as AC. Lady A Hilary Scott”s and Levine”s voices blend beautifully together.
Not everything succeeds: other than closing track ‘Out of Goodbyes,” the album runs out of steam after about two-thirds, but it”s an overall strong candidate. Maroon 5 doesn”t reinvent the wheel here, but expands its musical arc just enough to make fans feel like they aren”t buying a rehash of the first two albums.