The Maine
You Are OK


1.5
very poor

Review

by Jared P. STAFF
March 31st, 2019 | 33 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: When you go up, you then have to go down.

The Maine care about those that care to listen. Giving away free albums doesn’t carry the same weight as it did when Radiohead did it last decade, thanks to the rise of streaming formats of course and bandcamp giveaways, so the Arizonians went further and offered free concerts in 2015’s now-famous Free For All tour. “Come hear us play, come be a fan,” would be a mission statement they would carry with them when they later went into a private little house to record their best album, 2017’s Lovely Little Lonely. As opposed to “kinda disappearing for a while,” singer John O’Callaghan would tell the BUILD in New York City that they wanted to include their fans in the process, posting studio updates, generating feedback, and fine tuning the end product from that feedback.

And it clearly helped. Lovely Little Lonely is the only pop-punk album I know of that gets away with three (!) interludes in its twelve-track tracklisting -- pop is emphasized as the band’s much more heavily bent in that direction in comparison to that of punk -- but not only getting away with them, but greatly benefiting from their inclusion. The interludes of Lovely Little Lonely, each named a word of the album title, respectively, acted as atmospheric lubricant to the power pop engine that is The Maine, and I’d go as far as to say, they defined the record itself. That’s a bit extreme when some of The Maine’s strongest material is on that record, chiefly “Bad Behavior” and “Black Butterflies and Deja Vu” among them, but the interludes marked The Maine itching toward innovation and progression -- ambition, if you will, that they never showed before in their strong career.

Here in 2019 brings us The Maine in their “most ambitious form to date.” Back in January, John O’Callaghan announced via Instagram the March release of You Are OK, and then stated, “This is us, for the first time fully realizing a vision we had from conception to finished product.” Obviously those were words written to inspire hype, which the singer would later admit, going on to say, “This is us [. . .] holding our head up higher than we ever have before.” Any fan of The Maine had every right to be excited for this album. To read the singer stating that You Are OK was the band in prime form carried a lot of weight. There’s the excellence of Lovely Little Lonely to consider, but preceding albums American Candy, Forever Halloween, and Pioneer were all pristine, consistent works of the band’s hooky pop punk brand. To date, the band hasn’t released an underwhelming full LP in roughly nine years.

However, now post date, that run of excellence is no more. What originally brought fans into their family of cared-for beneficiaries was O’Callaghan’s intimacy of tone and voice; how he carried his hooks with unnatural ease and flair -- being right there, right next to you. Topics of boys and girls, and relationships, and subtle, naked depression, as in Pioneer’s “Misery” and American Candy’s gorgeous “24 Floors” -- all that typical, common shit that so many sing about lost all its initially expected cliché with this one singer’s hook and sound. It made him and his band better than any of their other contemporary’s crap like All Time Low and We The Kings. The band’s been producing independently since 2013’s Forever Halloween, and its been to their credit that I wouldn’t have known that fact had I not researched anything for this article: 8123 sounds like a major label. The Maine have always sounded huge, so it’s confusing when listening to the production job on You Are OK.

Guitarists Jared Monaco and O’Callaghan’s guitar tones sound diluted overall, and the most damning thing, O’Callaghan’s voice itself, the band’s strongest piece, is buried under the saturation. When considering single “Numb Without You” in its entirety, another production issue becomes apparent: Strings introduce this thing, synthesized, which being technically inorganic is fine, but they lack bite in the sound mix, almost coming off as lo-fi and by extension to the other sounds going on, tacked on, lazy, disorganized. The chorus hook itself is second best on the album, however; problem is, you have to accept the dust around it for a much weaker portrait. The curse of autotune, or some effect akin to it, finds O’Callaghan in the bridge, which he never needed to begin with.

On “Heaven, We’re Already Here”, the album’s strongest hook is beaten to a pulp with an onslaught of lo-fi style strings again, going as far as to not only drown out O’Callaghan's voice but the guitars too. During that same interview with the BUILD, the band stated that it was important to them that the band stay a rock band and when making an album to “take their pop arrangements and imbue as much rock n’ roll into them as they can.” Here on You Are OK, The Maine lose sight of that. “Broken Parts” is another dud covered in these strings. O’Callaghan loses position in the mix, jumping to the front in the verses, then jumping to the side in the pre-chorus, then seeming to somehow jump in the back once the pseudo-chorus comes in. Guitars, minus one acoustic in the prechorus, are absent as well, or at the least are so dialed down they are hard to distinguish from the overriding synths.

The best song on You Are OK is the intimate and acoustic “Forevermore”. Coming after lackluster “Heaven, We’re Already Here”, the song gives a breath of fresh air with its naked production and no tacky gimmicks. It’s the one instance where the youthful musings of O’Callaghan can be taken seriously, much less competently heard: “I want to feel like this forever, even if forever is just for now,” comes across like The Maine pre-OK -- personal and with you. The Maine close things out with the nine-minute “Flowers on the Grave”, which in length alone for The Maine is a challenge. Being at their best with the standard two-three minute pop-song layout, this is an another instance where the band got too ambitious to the point of failure. And come think of it, that’s perhaps You Are OK’s main problem: The Maine are at their most ambitious, I guess, but in the wrong ways. Production flourishes and a new song structure hamper their strengths here, and make this writer believe The Maine best go back and start caring about the right things and who they are as a band. We all know they can do much better than this.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Observer
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2019


6824 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

cant seem to fix the album art, so if anybody has the ability id much appreciate it

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
March 31st 2019


8968 Comments


So they are decidedly not okay, eh?

I digress, this review was very well composed my man, really enjoyed reading it. Had a personal touch to it but offered a lot of other analyses as well to really round out the criticisms. Spiritual POS

Observer
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2019


6824 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Yeah, unfortunately. I enjoyed their post 2010s output so this was a bummer.



thanks man. Bit trouble editing because my toddler wasnt having it, but i guess it came out alright.

onionbubs
March 31st 2019


11544 Comments


good review. for a huge pop punk head i’ve never been particularly won over by these guys so what i heard from this i didn’t rlly think of as any different from the stuff i heard on their other most recent output but i guess from that limited scope i wouldn’t be able to tell

Digging: The Dangerous Summer - Mother Nature

SymbolicInTime
March 31st 2019


4380 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Man, this album is such a disappointment. Their last three albums were so damn good. Lovely Little Lonely is one of my favorite albums of all time, but, man, this just doesn’t live up to it at all.

Observer
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2019


6824 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

yeah it really doesnt. I love the maine's melodies in general but those are squashed here, and much weaker than those on other albums before it anyway.



edit: thanks to whoever fixed the art

SymbolicInTime
March 31st 2019


4380 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

On a side note, does anyone know any other bands that do pop rock as well as The Maine did on their last few albums, especially LLL? I’m usually not big on pop rock but these guys showed me how well it can be done. The only other album in the genre I’ve heard that I like nearly as much is Jack’s Mannequin- Everything in Transit

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 31st 2019


31141 Comments


Great review. I'm a sucker for strings and pop arrangements but this still sounds dreadful. Also, it seems strange that I've never heard of these guys given the artists you recommended and the fact that they've been around for over a decade. I'll have to skim some older albums to see if there's anything in their past worth salvaging.

Digging: Bad Books - III

Observer
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2019


6824 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Oh really? yeah i guess youtube bad behavior, same suit, different tie, or 24 floors.





wondersofar, marianas trench's ever after album is great front to back, but the singer has a particular style that can make or break it for you. obvious rec are futures by jimmy eat world and most of motion city's discography but mainly commit this to memory and my dinosaur life.

SymbolicInTime
March 31st 2019


4380 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks, will add to my “will check” saves on spotify. Good pop rock makes me feel a special sort of way lol

dmathias52
March 31st 2019


552 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review! Obviously I disagree, but I can definitely see where you’re coming from. I love the inclusion of strings and synths and think it’s a logical step, otherwise I think it would have been a very similar album to their last three. The production isn’t great though, so some songs definitely sound a bit same-y and washed out.

“Heaven, We’re Already Here” might actually be one of my favorites because I’m a sucker for anthems and I love the energy behind it. To me it seems like one of the most fleshed-out songs they’ve ever written. And while I think “Forevermore” is a lovely song, I really dislike it’s placement in the track list. It also feels incomplete, almost like an acoustic version of a full song.

Digging: Mike Adams at His Honest Weight - There Is No Feeling Better

JesperL
March 31st 2019


397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Love the review, love the album. This is definitely their worst in a long time, lacking a real 'hit', but it flows pretty nicely and 'My Best Habit' and 'I Feel It All Over' are still beautifully catchy

SymbolicInTime
March 31st 2019


4380 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Those two tracks are definitely my favorite on here. Could definitely see My Best Habit being on American Candy

dmathias52
March 31st 2019


552 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Also, I would definitely recommend Mariana’s Trench for pop rock! I love their whole discography, but Ever After is especially fun.

SymbolicInTime
March 31st 2019


4380 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks!

Alright so I have about 5 or 6 spins of this under my belt now. There are a few really good tracks (My Best Habit, I Feel It All Over, and One Sunset), but most of this is just a hard “meh”, and Broken Parts is just abhorrent. The closer is pretty poor too, offering about 30-45 seconds of enjoyment and 8.5 minutes of “I mean I guess it’s fine??” which turns into nothing but annoyance when it goes on for that long

Sinternet
March 31st 2019


19660 Comments


the one track i heard off this was kinda weak and i love forever halloween so rip i guess. they're a good live band though so maybe they'd work better in that setting

Observer
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2019


6824 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Nice dig, Sin.



Forever Halloween was a great overlooked album. Despite this review, I wish this band was more popular and that the mainstream singles charts were more welcoming to pop rock like it used to be in times past. Of course they're independent so that doesnt help either but still.

Lucman
March 31st 2019


2711 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I haven't dug into this album enough to rate it but it's definitely a disappointment after their previous two. Maybe not 1.5 worthy but I'm feeling a 3.

Digging: Harmonium - L'heptade

andthedragon
March 31st 2019


2 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm liking You Are Okay more than Forever Halloween, but coming on the heels of Lovely Little Lonely, it's pretty disappointing.

Observer
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2019


6824 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Fair enough Lucman, going by other reviews on the web im a definite outlier. When getting ready for this review I listened back to their other albums and ended up hating this more than my initial reaction actually. Their other work is just way stronger in my mind and not bogged down by Squire's terrible production job.



edit: awesome, i guess im approved for the chopping block once again.



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