Review Summary: Don't stop listening to rock & roll
After enjoying the success of 2008's "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" The Maine were on their way of becoming one of the biggest pop-rock bands, but instead of following their peers' footsteps to a more mainstream sound (Boys Like Girls), 2010 saw the band make a drastic change on their musical direction with "Black and White". With this unexpected move the band showed some signs of maturity, the album leaned for a more rock-oriented sound, backed up with some catchy hooks and a very polished production, however it fell short from what it was intended to be. Besides from some good cuts "Inside of You" and "Growing Up" to name a few, the album just felt very forced at times and gave the impression that the band were being held back from showing their true potential, leaving the listener disappointed knowing that some songs like "Saving Grace" could have been great. Well this time around things have changed for good –no, really- as now the quintet have left their major-label and decided to try and make music on their own, embracing the fact that they are an American rock band, so forget all the preconceptions you had about The Maine, because they have made their best album yet, and it's really good.
Pioneer starts up just the right way, "Identify" is the best track to define the over-all sound of the album, slowly opening with calm guitar playing while front man John O'Callaghan sings "Some things are out of my hands, I'm what time and consequence have made me, sit back and watch the world explode. 3, 2, 1 here come the fireworks, baby," just to immediately explode into an arena-rocker with some big hooks, it also features a gigantic chorus which is pretty catchy, an all-around solid song, and perfect to set up the whole thing. After only listening to the first song it's hard to believe this is the same band who wrote "Girls Do What They Want," but it only gets better, "My Heroine" is another powerful number, it features some distorted guitars and has a really cool southern-rock feeling to it, it will draw your attention. "Some Days" is a really particular track, the main riff sounds like something from Yoshi's Island for SNES, but that's certainly not a bad thing, it is actually damn catchy, but with the chorus being a bit cheesy "Some days, they taste like lemonade, some days can feel like razorblades, I wish I could float away, some days," you'll either love it or hate it, but it has that good vibe that floats throughout the album, a good song for a sunny day.
Next up is the first of the slow songs the album has, and a favorite of mine, "I'm Sorry" is a song that will hit you hard, it gets incredible at the last chorus proving that John can sing without the need of auto tune, don't be surprised if you find yourself singing along to O'Callaghan's simple but yet effective lyrics, as the chorus is mostly repeating "I'm sorry, I'm not what you wanted, I'm sorry, I'm sorry I let you down," it resembles Taking Back Sunday's "Since You're Gone" on the fact that it is so honest that it delivers its message. Sixth track "Don't Give Up on Us" is another highlight, it is one of The Maine's best songs to date and one of the catchiest, one of those songs that have that charm that never fades away.
"Misery" starts the second half of the record on a great fashion, as this could be the best song we have here, never before "Pioneer" did the band ever put so much passion to their songs as they do with this release, this song is the perfect example of this. Everything is just in place, the guitars, the bass, the drumming, and of course John's powerful vocals are what put it all together as the song reaches heights you never thought could be possible for these guys, "Misery" is the type of track The Maine has been chasing all these years, and it's something they should definitely stick to. To these point I haven't really gone into the lyrics to much and that is because there is no much to say about them, they are definitely better than anything they wrote before, but they are just not outstanding, however they do serve their purpose for a record like this, of course there are some exceptions, like the next track which I really enjoy, both musically and lyrically, "When I'm at Home" is a very rock-oriented song, featuring some really good guitar work and a smooth bass, while the vocals are delivered just fine “I’ll burn this house down, no need for walls now, when I'm with you, I'm at home," the song has it's memorable moments.
The last part of the record won't disappoint either, "Thinking of You" shows the band doing some experimentation with piano, and softer choruses. "Jenny" is a soft ballad that O'Callaghan wrote for his mother, I actually enjoy it a lot, it is nicely performed and has a nice bridge, but there is also that sincerity that the band have been showing throughout the record that make it very special. The next song is one of my favorites and one definitely worth listening to, it is also the closest the band gets to their previous sound, "Like We Did" it's a straight-forward rock song about youth, and also a perfect summer song, catchy as only The Maine can be, the song will surely bring many nostalgic moments, I can already see groups of kids jamming to this on those long summers days for years to come. The twelfth track doesn't really need too much explanation, it speaks for itself, "While Listening to Rock & Roll" it's a great tune that builds up a whole atmosphere to it, and it shows The Maine being where they want to be, finally making the music they want to, a tribute to the music we all love. Finally Pioneer ends on a good note, "Waiting for My Sun to Shine" is a soft track which features some of the best lyrics on the record, and musically the band is going all out.
I’ve always liked to watch a band grow and progress with each release they make, and we all meet that with mixed feelings, as growth doesn’t always happens the way we want to, hopefully on Pioneer we see the band maturing as musicians the right way with nothing to hold them back. These are nothing more than five individuals making music together, the music they were always supposed to make, ending on a unique listening experience for us. It might be hard to check this band again if you disliked CSWS, you might even have to forget the fact they did a cover for “I Wanna Love You,” but trust me if you are in for the mood of hearing some good rock music, this record was made for you, and don’t you ever give up on them.