Kara's FlowersThe Fourth World> Grunge Rock> Rhino Records> Members: Michael Madden, Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael, Ryan Dusick
Since its official formation in 2001, pop rock band Maroon 5 has released two chart-topping albums, Songs About Jane and It Won't Be Soon Before Long. Over the last seven years, Maroon 5 has successfully managed to achieve nationwide fame, touring throughout the country with such well-known performers as The Rolling Stones, The Counting Crows, and Guster. The group includes five members: Adam Levine, lead vocals and rhythm guitar; James Valentine, lead guitar and backup vocals; Jesse Carmichael, keyboard, rhythm guitar and backup vocals; Mickey Madden, bass guitar; and Matt Flynn, drums and percussion.But what about life for Maroon 5's members before their "big break?" Not just a group of guys waiting to get out of high school and find each other, three of the group's future members, Levine, Carmichael and Madden, along with friend Ryan Dusick, came together to form grunge rock band Kara's Flowers, from 1994 to 2001.Though the success of Kara's Flowers was minimal compared to Maroon 5's current status, the starter band did manage to produce one album: the overlooked yet undeniably catchy The Fourth World, released in 1997. The album features eleven tracks that ring with the familiar vocals of Levine yet shy away from Maroon 5's more powerful rock tendencies. The first track, "Soap Disco," is an upbeat pop-influenced song in the vein of the hit Maroon 5 single "Makes Me Wonder." Levine's singular voice is slightly deeper throughout this album than in his Maroon 5 releases, yet this difference blends well with the percussion of the opening song that creates a rhythm easy to listen and to dance to."My Ocean Blue" allows Levine a pleasant chance to slow down the pace and croon, similar to the opportunity provided by Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved." In addition, his harmonic abilities with the guitar add a pleasant melody to the background of the song, which starts out as an abstract love ballad and finishes reminiscent of 1950's rock and roll. Some tracks on The Fourth World that act as more obvious precursors to the current sound of Maroon 5. "Myself" features more of Levine's intense guitar playing and a quicker tempo, and the track "Oliver" is like a more rock heavy version of "Soap Disco," though ultimately neither packs the same attitude and force as Maroon 5 singles "This Love" or "Wake Up Call."The Fourth World has an undeniably different sound and feel than either of Maroon 5's albums, and may prove a disappointment to listeners looking for an extension of the risque rock for which the group has been famous.Yet, for fans wishing to hear the voice of Levine and the sounds of Carmichael and Madden in a less familiar though ultimately enjoyable context, the work of Kara's Flowers is a pleasant discovery.