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Album review: Maroon 5's 'Hands All Over'

September 22, 2010 |  5:38 pm

Maroon5 It says something serious about Maroon 5’s commitment to professional polish that this popular L.A. outfit — already one of rock’s slickest — opted to make its third studio disc with Robert “Mutt” Lange. He’s the reclusive production whiz behind such radio-bait blockbusters as Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” and “Come on Over” by his ex-wife, Shania Twain.

And, indeed, on “Hands All Over,” Lange successfully pushes Maroon 5’s music to newly glossy heights: James Valentine’s guitar in “Get Back in My Life” is more or less indistinguishable from Jesse Carmichael’s keyboard, while “Don’t Know Nothing” sounds like some forgotten Motown tune taken apart and reassembled by robots. Even the lightly country-fried closer, “Out of Goodbyes” (with a lush vocal cameo by Lady Antebellum), glimmers with a kind of space station sheen.

All that craft is deeply satisfying to ears accustomed to current pop’s computerized precision; a light-funk groove as neatly executed as the one in “Give a Little More,” for instance, is its own reward.

Yet “Hands All Over” reveals less about who frontman Adam Levine is than did Maroon 5’s previous records; too often the songs cleave to opaque generalities. Coming from a guy who’s written as frankly about psychosexual drama as anyone else on the Top 40, that’s a disappointment, especially when Levine flashes the occasional reminder of his old idiosyncrasy.

In lead single “Misery,” the latest in a long line of Maroon 5 songs concerning romantic obsession, Levine zooms in on the image of “your salty skin,” and for a second you realize that humans built this machine.

— Mikael Wood

Maroon 5

“Hands All Over”

A&M/Octone

Two and a half stars

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