Review Summary: You might as well just listen to it now before you become really sick of it when it is overplayed in the near future.
Jason Wade and post-grunge/pop-rock Lifehouse first made it big in the beginning of the last decade with the release of the colossal, chart-climbing single, “Hanging By A Moment”. A quick fast forwarding to the present day now finds the band that first stemmed from Christian-rockers Blyss having have made a career of releasing albums with a couple of chart-worthy,market torpedo songs, meticulously crafted into direct shots at the love-longing listeners that occasionally kept their XM radios tuned to a routine Top 40 station. Ever so slowly, the California-originated band has fine-tuned their brand of contemporary pop-rock from release to release – their last album, Who We Are
, being what many considered to be their most consistent album yet. Smoke & Mirrors
, while sporting an album title that a band making this type of radio rock should probably avoid christening their work with, is Lifehouse’s next release and continues the fine-tuning even further in the quartet’s sound. The end result is an album that the fans can truly be proud of and enjoy.
The premise of Lifehouse’s work remains largely unchanged on new album Smoke & Mirrors
. The lyrics still deal with love/loss relationship topics, growing stronger as an individual, and really just the type of stuff that is generally heard from pop-rock bands known to control the radio waves. The improvement, when compared to the band’s past work, however, is really heard in how well the hooks of the music come into play behind vocalist Jason Wade with the band’s blend of effects and guitars. “All In” sets the pace for the album with a rather slow tempo for an introduction track; Wade comes in with his smokey yet not-too-gruff delivery – back off Nickelback – to deliver the expected slow build in the verse that climaxes into a chorus that is just set to grab the radio charts by the reigns - and probably won’t be letting go for a while either. Likewise, the next three tracks follow this formula with differing sets of lyrics to deliver similar successes in the art of pop-rock – “Nerve Damage” actually throwing in a surprisingly polarized tempo change that’s executed quite well.
“It Is What It Is” – which could actually just be viewed as a descriptor for the type of music bands like Lifehouse make these days, no? – cuts the distortion down for a proper ballad-paced heart-grabber. ‘Somewhere in this city is a road I know / Where we could make it / Or maybe we can’t make it all
’, finds Wade in a depressed, giving-up mood - something fans may not be used to - but the songwriter’s caprice is a welcome change – a bit more realistic, and, as a result, more able to relate to a number of listeners. Likewise, “From Where You Are” follows next and plays the part of Smoke & Mirrors
’ re-creation of 2005’s hit, “You and Me”. Lifehouse’s strong suit is certainly in the area of crafting commercial radio ballads, and this album delivers in spades. “Falling In” stands in line for a radio catapult as well – yes, again – but it’s in “Wrecking Ball” where we find this album’s strongest track. Beginning on a stop-start riff and a different vocalist, Bryce Soderberg (the bassist) comes in with his tale of self-destruction. The chorus enters in, lights the fire, and a healthy fill-in of “Ahhh, ahhh, ahhh” keeps the flames going to last through the night. Everything that follows after this track is, by now, standard fare, but that’s really only because “Wrecking Ball” comes in and destroys any need you might have previously had for a pop-rock blast.
Smoke & Mirrors
is Lifehouse’s best release, moving ahead of 2007’s Who We Are
in quality, and is just standing in anticipation to be thrown to radio stations across the US – or even the world. Taking the music at face value, however, ‘it is what it is’
, to be honest, and won’t excite those that hate this kind of music or cause the band to gain any awards in the future. Still, this is finely tuned pop-rock that is inoffensive, catchy, and actually really consistent throughout. Though I doubt I will continually spin this in the future, I can say that if I happen to hear “Wrecking Ball” playing on the radio, I won’t hesitate to hum along to its melody, if not full-out just sing to it while on my way to work in my car. Smoke & Mirrors
stands ready to conquer Top 40 radio and many television, night drama soundtracks; you might as well just listen to it now before you become really sick of it when it is overplayed in the near future.