On Maroon 5's third album, their already polished sound is burnished to a high-gloss glow. With producer Robert "Mutt" Lange — the guy behind AC/DC's Back in Black, Def Leppard's Pyromania and Shania Twain's biggest hits — at the helm, the dozen songs on Hands All Over are models of craftsmanship and efficiency, each clocking in at under four minutes and delivering verses catchier than other bands' choruses. On "Misery," the first single, frontman Adam Levine floats his reedy tenor over a percolating groove. "I am in misery," Levine sings. He doesn't sound so miserable, actually; he sounds like a skilled bandleader, guiding a well-oiled group through its paces.
Levine's big influences are still Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and the Police, but he stretches out, dipping into country ("Out of Goodbyes," with harmonies from Lady Antebellum) and power pop ("Stutter"). The problem is, Hands isn't half as fun as it should be. The title track is a big, silly arena-rock song reminiscent of Def Leppard: "Put your hands all over me," Levine bellows over burly power chords, but Maroon 5 are too meticulous, a little too uptight, to make good on the song's party-hearty promise. Levine and crew could be blue-eyed-soul godheads, the 21st-century Hall and Oates. But they need to loosen up first.
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