January 23, 2014 The Maine – Forever Halloween (Album review)
The past year was quite a big one for John O’Callaghan (vocalist, guitar, piano), Kennedy Brock (guitarist, backing vocals), Jared Monaco (guitarist), Garrett Nickelsen (bassist), and Pat Kirch (drummer,percussion). These five talented musicians make up the Tempe, Arizona pop/punk band The Maine. Exactly seven years ago on this day, these high schoolers decided to join artistic forces and began a journey that would quickly take the punk music scene by storm. They released their first EP, The Way We Talk, only months after forming together in 2007. This six-track EP literally created an overwhelming fan base for the five men overnight, and as a result they were chosen to perform in the Vans Warped Tour that very same year. Following this immediate success, The Maine decided to return to the studio to record their first full-length album, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop (2008). With two successful releases and a strong fan base, The Maine began venturing off into new genres and sounds with their sophomore album, Black & White (2010) and their junior album, Pioneer (2011). However, it is arguable that no album has given The Maine success quite as much as their most recent release, Forever Halloween (2013). It is the most mature-sounding to date and their headlining tour for the album has only grown their fan-base as they shared the stage with bands such as Lydia, From Indian Lakes, and Anberlin. Perhaps the best part of The Maine’s most recent release, Forever Halloween, is the message it sends to their fans: not to live life wearing a mask. In this industry it is easy for musicians to stray away from the people they started out as, however, this record only reinforces the fact that The Maine has remained loyal to themselves and their fans from the very first time they practiced together on the 8123 rooftop in Arizona.
“Take What You Can Carry” is a strong introduction for Forever Halloween. It begins purely percussion and then soon brings in the keyboard for a simple, yet entrancing sound. It is really O’Callaghan’s vocals and the mature, yet mocking lyricism that sets this song apart. This song almost acts as a reminder that material things aren’t going to replace those that are intangible. It’s the perfect segue into follow-up track and second single, “Love & Drugs”, which is easily the catchiest track off of Forever Halloween. With a steady bass line, and an upbeat melody, it is the perfect song to blast with the windows down on a breezy day. The song is almost as carefree sounding as the lyrics it features. The message given is for us to cherish the spontaneity of life and the little things that make a big difference because sometimes those moments can be just as powerful as the feeling of love or the effects of drugs. “Run” is another upbeat, standout track for The Maine. It is a song that builds up and gives each member of the band a moment to shine. It also features one of the catchiest choruses on the entire album with the resounding line, “I never meant to hurt anyone. / I really thought that we were just having fun. / But you put the gun in my hand so now run.”
At this point of Forever Halloween, things begin to slow down a little. Tracks “White Walls”, “Happy”, and “Birthday In Los Angeles” all seem to analyze the growing pains of life in a cynical way that almost acts to mock the naivety of our maturing youth. Both the musicality and the songwriting of these tracks are absolutely stellar. Specifically in the song, “Birthday In Los Angeles”, we hear a completely stripped version of The Maine. O’Callaghan’s raspy vocals and a simple strum of a guitar is enough to capture all of your attention. That is without mentioning the narrative lyricism of the track that includes explicit details of the way Los Angeles is the complete opposite of everything they thought it would be. This song also acts as a transitional piece into the more serious side of the album.
The song “Blood Red” is a much grungier sound for The Maine. It is darker, heavier, and more hard-hitting than its predecessors but somehow still makes sense on the track listing of the album. It is truly a song that tells a story with or without the lyrics. The strategic placement of keyboard is what really sets the feeling throughout the three minute and nineteen second track. Toward the end of the piece, the keyboard notes begin to go all off-key, evoking the same emotion that the lyrics are describing. Following is a song called, “Kennedy Curse”. This is another track that is edgy in sound. It’s a guitar-focused introduction alongside quiet vocals. It takes over a minute to build up before other instruments are introduced. It is a song that keeps you on your toes because it is impossible to expect what will come next. “F**ked Up Kids” is the catchiest song from this second chunk of Forever Halloween. It has that rock sound but the mood is a little lighter than the previous. It is an upbeat track about staying true to who you are, no matter how low you may be feeling about yourself. It’s a track that is easily relatable to The Maine’s fan base and it is a positive message to send out for a younger audience.
The second to last track is actually the first single off of Forever Halloween entitled “These Four Words” solely containing keyboard and vocals. It’s not a track that one would normally pick as a first single because it is dark, melancholy, and quieter in sound. However, for this album, it makes sense. The Maine is maturing and so is their music and the topics that they choose to sing about. This song is essentially the opposite of all of their previous work. To make this a first single was an extremely bold move for these five men, but one that worked out for them in the long run.
The album is closed with the title track “Forever Halloween”. The song features an acoustic introduction alongside O’Callaghan’s quiet, raspy vocals. The opening lines are symbolic of both the track and the entire overall message of the album. This track almost acts as a reflection of the band members and their growing up. Starting out in this business so young, there’s no doubt that they were faced with atypical situations in which they straddled the line of wanting to stay true to who they were yet also wanting to fit in. Again, this is something that fans can assimilate with and a little reminder that it is okay to be who you are.
The Maine has come a long way in their seven years in the business. They have 1 EP and 4 full-length albums under their belt, yet somehow it really feels like their career is just starting to take off. Forever Halloween has literally shown fans the growth of this band and what else they are capable of doing. It has altered any previous misconceptions others may have had on the kind of music The Maine writes and records. This album alone has created a brand new name for The Maine and it has captured the interests of brand new fans in the process. Whoever said punk is dead certainly hasn’t heard this album yet. The Maine has stripped off their masks and costumes and brought grunge punk back in full force with the release of Forever Halloween. For this reason, CrypticRock gives this album five out of five stars.
Review written by Vanessa Carlucci