On their first major-label release (after an EP and album for Fearless), the Maine take a step away from the emo-pop sound they began with. Instead of fast tempos, sunny songs about girls, and Auto-Tuned vocals, Black & White has a more mature and measured approach. The tempos are nearly all mid, the mood is often melancholy or nostalgic, and the overall sound is much slicker and more adult. The presence of Hammond organ is a trademark signifier of a serious and adult band and it creeps into a handful of songs here, layered in among the acoustic guitars. Not that their previous work was raw by any means, but it did have a youthful brashness and exuberance that’s totally missing here. There’s no trace of punk left in their approach, in other words. In fact, if the vocals had more of a twang, the record could pass for a modern country release. It will certainly appeal to the same kind of fans who like Taylor Swift -- people who like solid, catchy songs, sung earnestly. There are definitely quite a few songs that would sound good on the radio, like the hooky "Fuel to the Fire" and the cute "Right Girl," but overall the record and the band lack the kind of individuality that will really hook people. Black & White sounds more like a genetically engineered record than the organic work of a bunch of guys who really care about what they are doing.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra