From the witty lyricism and bouncy hooks of their 2008 debut, Can't Stop Won't Stop, and following two years later with the classic rock-influenced Black & White, Tempe, Arizona-based rockers the Maine have always been comfortable playing beyond the confines of emo-pop conventions -- and this feeling is more evident than ever with Pioneer. Creative disagreements with their label led to the Maine's decision to release the album independently on their Action Theory label, freeing up the quintet to create its most stripped-down and mature effort yet. The tongue-in-cheek attitude, synthesizer sections, and studio bells and whistles of their past works are mostly gone, replaced with simplified musical compositions, the addition of instrumentation like piano and strings, and openhearted lyrics conveying a sense of longing. "Don't stand in line," encourages opener "Identify," setting Pioneer's tone as its light midtempo guitar slowly climbs to an anthemic peak not straying too far from what Maine fans have grown accustomed to. Other tracks like the sultry, party-ready "My Heroine" and romantic call to arms "Don't Give Up on 'Us'" will also please longtime listeners, but generally Pioneer finds the Maine exploring territory new to them. There's "Some Days," with laid-back swagger and a saccharine chorus showcasing the band through a Kings of Leon-meets Fountains of Wayne lens, while the plaintive, string-accented "I'm Sorry" recalls the solo work of Old 97's frontman Rhett Miller and the smoky confessional "Misery" slowly smolders from raw confessional to singalong. Aside from these declarations of independence, Pioneer's other prevailing theme is nostalgia, best captured with "Like We Did (Windows Down)" and "While Listening to Rock & Roll...," two reflections on youth and music presented in two different ways. "Windows" is driving both literally and figuratively, with ringing guitars recalling Can't Stop Won't Stop and lyrics about cruising around town, while the downtempo "Listening" echoes the more contemplative, measured approach the band has adopted since that first record. On a larger scale, the two songs typify the spirit put forth on Pioneer, showing a band caught between its old (young?) ways and the desire to move forward.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Chrysta Cherrie