The “scene” explosion of the late 2000s, full of spiky haircuts, skinny jeans, and too many rubber bracelets, claimed the careers of many bands unable to move past the overly accessible bubblegum-punky music. Only a handful have managed to stay relevant and produce forward-thinking material, thereby growing with old fans and amassing new ones simultaneously. Emulated with the release of their fifth album two weeks ago, “American Candy,” The Maine, formed in the midst of the scene era, has proven to be one of those notable exceptions.
“The progression of all five records The Maine has done has been a really cool thing to watch,” “American Candy” producer Colby Wedgeworth said in a recent video published by the band. “I think each album is so unique from the previous, yet you always know you are listening to The Maine. I don’t think many bands can do that.”
“American Candy” comes in contrast to The Maine’s previous album, “Forever Halloween,” which was recorded completely on live tape without any computers or modern editing techniques. Framed by earnest, “figuring out life” lyrics, the record’s resulting raw sound reflected the band’s struggle in transforming from five scene heartthrobs to five serious musicians. However, what made “Forever Halloween” so great and successful was the irreproducible organic nature of the songs. The album was a centerpiece not meant to be followed up by a replica. “‘Forever Halloween’ was kind of the end of a chapter of us,” drummer Pat Kirch said in a recent Alternative Press feature. “We felt comfortable with who were as a band to begin again and make something fresh.”
Optimizing on that confident new attitude, “American Candy” is an expression of the band realizing they no longer need to prove to anyone their artistic worth. “I think ‘American Candy’ is what eight years in a band has finally allowed us to do,” Kirch continued.
“I knew coming into writing the whole record that I wanted to write from a different place this time around, a less somber kind of stance,” frontman John O’Callaghan said in the same Alternative Press feature. “I felt like I really wanted to write optimistic and positive, at least sounding, songs.” Instead of shunning the band’s past material, the record capitalizes on the perspective and insight gained from their musical journey. “It kind of seemed like the band was ready and comfortable to make a record that combined a bit maybe of old school The Maine and the new The Maine,” Wedgeworth said. “In a way, it kind of feels like the band made this record just for the fans.”
Seen in weighty tracks, such as “24 Floors” and “(Un)lost,” The Maine are clearly cognizant of their progress as musicians on “American Candy,” but the overall feel is much more lively. However, just because the band had some fun, it does not mean the record lacks substance and a message.
“American candy is the junk they get you hooked on, anything without a heartbeat, any manufactured, manipulative, soulless garbage fed to us daily. It is anything that attempts to entertain or to please or to persuade with complete disregard for integrity or character,” O’Callaghan said in a behind the scenes video. “It’s everything I don’t want to be or be a part of.”
Exemplified by the advertisement-like album cover, “American Candy” is a clear protest against consumerism, but not necessarily in a political way. “This record is not some political statement or guide to live life by, it’s simply honest,” O’Callaghan said. There is an extended metaphor of sweetness and sugar high representing this mass media, dampening individual thought and inquiry. In “Diet Soda Society,” the protagonist narrates, “I asked her what she thought of person versus persona; she told me shut up and drink your diet soda.” American candy is not rotting away our teeth; it is rotting away our brains.
Basically begging its listeners to not become fake in the center of all the commercialization, the title track warns that with a taste of addicting American candy “you’re so sweet and sated, sedated” and “you’re hooked and baited, you’re annihilated.” The sarcastic chorus in “Am I Pretty?” continuously asks, “Do people like me?” until sincerely responding with “there’s beauty and grace in the thoughts of your face.” In a recent Yahoo live-stream of the band’s sold out concert in Anaheim, California, O’Callaghan ended with, “Be yourself, that’s all you can be.”
“We’re slowly but surely trying to become a band, not just five faces or five haircuts,” The Maine said before the release of their third album in an Alternative Press article. As a testament to their enthusiasm for musical progression, the band followed up their sublime “Forever Halloween” with a purposely-lighthearted record that is a reflection of their transformation in the past years. Containing some deeper notes mixed with a lot of fun moments, “American Candy” is an ideal summer album released at the perfect time: right before the end of the term, early enough to help push through those last few weeks of classes. It all comes packaged with a message asking you to reject the falsity of mass consumerism and to embrace the imperfection that comes with being yourself.
- American Candy is available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube via The Maine’s channel.
- Catch them on the American Candy Tour with Real Friends, Knuckle Puck, and The Technicolours, coming to the State Theater in St. Petersburg on Fri., May 15th and the Beacham in Orlando on Sat., May 16th
- The Maine will also be doing at in-store appearance at Park Avenue Compact Discs in Orlando before their show the Beacham.
- The Catalyst will be covering the in-store appearance at their show that night, so stay tuned until then!