At this point in their career, Arizona-formed band The Maine are no strangers to crafting alternative albums that perfectly sit on the fence between energetic pop and hard-hitting rock. And that's exactly what they did with their seventh studio album, "You Are OK," which serves as much more than just a great album. Rather, it serves as an important reminder to every one of their listeners that they are not alone in their struggles and that, most importantly, they are okay.
The 10 tracks of the album flow perfectly from start to finish, a narrative-like component that is not rare in The Maine's discography. The sound isn't totally unfamiliar, but there are enough pockets of innovation and creative leap that the album doesn't just sound like a continuation of the previous one - the familiar blistering riffs and anthem-like verses are part of what makes The Maine themselves, after all.
The album opener, "Slip the Noose," is a surprisingly upbeat, energetic tune that preaches a sense of triumph over the person you used to be. It's clear with lyrics like "give two fingers to the person I used to be" that vocalist John O'Callaghan is ready to move the band from its previous eras into a whole new world of self-discovery.
The second track, "My Best Habit," is definitely a track that honors all of the instrumentals and musical components that people know and love from The Maine. The chorus is arguably one of the most catchy and flirtatious choruses of the entire album, paired with the classic bright guitars and bass lines that band members Jared Monaco, Garret Nickelsen and Kennedy Brock are known for. This song is another upbeat, defiant track that reaffirms the message of the album opener: that you and only you can decide to reinvent your identity and follow a different path in life, regardless of others' expectations.
"Numb Without You" was the first single The Maine dropped before the album's release, and it's the track that perfectly showcases that, while the band does have a generally familiar sound and vibe, no one should ever underestimate their ability to creatively go outside the box and make something new. The song's dramatic strings, intense drum patterns and urgent tempo all come together to make a fittingly theatrical and explosive track. With O'Callaghan's gripping vocals and lyrics that howl "we will never be this young again, so full of fire and rebellion," "Numb Without You" is the most impactful song on "You Are OK" (and, in my personal opinion, the best song to blast in the car while driving with the windows down and screaming the lyrics).
The album continues, slowly cascading down from the exuberant, high-energy beginning and taking a second to breathe with the acoustic "Forevermore." This song takes a break from the defiant confidence that's been sung about so far, and lead singer John O'Callaghan takes this chance to show off his incredible lyricism and open a conversation about the bittersweet longing to retain the happiness and satisfaction of life in the present.
That conversation continues into the next track, "Tears Won't Cry (ShinjŪ)," but this song tackles it with a bright pop attitude and funky guitar lines. O'Callaghan's ability to write relaxed, free-spirited lyrics is exhibited once again in this track, but in a much more conventional way. The processed background lyrics paired with pop instrumentals definitely makes this song the one that most resembles the current "Top 40" pop-rock genre, unlike the other nine tracks.
"You Are OK" comes to a climax with the final track, "Flowers On The Grave." This track is an impressive nine minutes long, but each minute is artfully and critically used to hammer home the essential message of the album: you are okay. It's a bittersweet reminder of hope and resilience, even through the most unexpected and demanding parts of your life. "Flowers On The Grave" is a histrionic recognition of that message. The electrifying guitar lines and carefree, sanguine drums, along with the bittersweet lyricism from O'Callaghan, come together to make this final track a theatrical, impactful performance that practically forces the listener on their own emotional journey to the epiphany that you can't plan life - you can only react and live through it. And no matter what you go through, you are okay.
The Maine created a kind of masterpiece with "You Are OK," both in its restless-yet-content ideology and in instrumentals that are both classic and innovative. It's an album that seems like it was made for screaming/crying along to and blasting in the car. I could try to (badly) articulate my final takeaway from the album, but Amber Ainsworth on ClickOn Detroit sums it up best: "It's a record for bad days. It's a record for good days. It's a record for when nothing makes sense, a record for when life is confusing. It's a record for when things fall apart and when things come together."
"You Are OK" is available to stream on every major streaming platform. Visit www.themaineband.com for merchandise or tour information.