Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine may or may not be the carousing ''man-whore'' that Page Six pegs him to be. (Did the beady-eyed soul singer really speed-dump Jessica Simpson via text message? Who knows? Who actually cares?) But judging from his band's sophomore album, it certainly seems like he views romance as terribly fleeting. It Won't Be Soon Before Long is a fast-moving collection of fizzy but entertaining come-ons, get-offs, breakups, and makeups. There's not a lot to fall deeply in love with here, but Levine and crew understand the importance of packing as much thrill as possible into each tryst, leaving you with mostly good feelings and no lasting emotional scars.
Before Long establishes its smarmy, smooth-operator vibe immediately with the droll optimism of a grown man on permanent spring break. ''If I never see your face again,'' sings Levine, nonchalantly, on the track of the same name, ''I don't mind 'cause we've gone much further than I thought we'd get tonight.'' Just like he's rumored to do with the wham, bam, thank you ma'ams who make up his tabloid fodder, Levine leaves us with his true gift that smug, R&B-slick deadpan.
Yes, the singer seems detached cold, even but over a plucky dance-floor groove like the single ''Makes Me Wonder,'' there's a twisted logic to his dispassionate delivery (a steady, nasally distillation of early Sting and Jamiroquai's goofy-hatted singer Jay Kay). He's eager to give up on reconciliation and boogie over to the next conquest, singing ''It really makes me wonder if I ever gave a f--- about you.''
But whether breaking hearts brusquely or semi-sweetly as on ''Nothing Lasts Forever,'' Maroon 5 score with their big, memorable, melodic hooks. Tracks like ''Little of Your Time'' and ''Can't Stop'' kick off with staccato, chunky but toothless funk. Within seconds, though, both swell in the grandiose pop manner of the band's ubiquitous 2006 Grammy award clincher, ''This Love.''
No pickup artist is perfect, and Maroon 5 definitely exhibit some slackin' to their mackin'. The cheap Prince knockoff ''Kiwi'' rides a dull bass line to an icky chorus that's unlikely to drive the ladies anywhere but away. ''Sweet Kiwi,'' croons Levine, trying too hard to convey sexy over a guitar vamp worthy of '70s porn and little else, ''your juices drippin' down my chin.'' But aside from the occasional libido overflow and a few too many riffs cribbed directly from Synchronicity, Maroon 5's flirty new set is fine for at least an evening's worth of wild times. Whether you'll want to bring it home to Mom the next day is another story. B