Angels and Airwaves
Lifeforms


4.2
excellent

Review

by Simon K. STAFF
September 22nd, 2021 | 58 replies


Release Date: 09/24/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I cannot sleep I cannot dream tonight

I don’t think it gets stated enough, but Tom DeLonge is a true pioneer of his craft. I grew up on Blink-182 and revelled in the hysteria and adulation of Enema of the State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket; in spite of my lack of enthusiasm for music at the time, DeLonge’s vigour and cheeky humour certainly drew me into their music, where the albums eventually spoke for themselves. Angels & Airwaves on the other hand is a band I never really got into until five or so years ago. Hell, prior to that I’ll even admit I mildly loathed the alternative-rock-pop amalgam A&A provided, during the throes of releasing new music and establishing their brand. I had an aversion to the band’s ostentatious look, their sugary optimism, millennial woes, and the mid-tempo-ed simplicity of A&A’s compositional style. Yet, circa 2016, for no reason at all, I felt a gravitational pull towards listening to the band, in hindsight executed almost subconsciously. By around 2019 I had become inadvertently comfortable with their discography, with the realisation they were actually consistently good – they never excelled, but it was hard to argue with some of the quality found within those albums. What’s more important though – after overcoming my own ignorance – is it eventually got me on to musing over Tom DeLonge as a person and how he has been an important contributor to popular music, on more than one occasion, I might add.

Without really touching on the subject; I have immense respect for Tom turning down the mid-10s Blink-182 reunion (a reunion that amounted to nothing more than average-at-best new music, and creepy forty-year-old renditions of classic Blink tunes). It’s an important indicator that exhibits DeLonge chasing art and new creative pastures over trodden, dead ground for the fruits of monetary safety. Tom’s contributions in his early days put him right into the pop-punk pantheon, and they go without saying, but looking back on it now, Angels & Airwaves were also responsible for spearheading and popularising the millennial-woe-pop-rock architype bands like Thirty Seconds to Mars would later derive for their own works. In short, you can tell Tom has a real passion for the arts and looks to push and express himself in different ways, even today. In turn, whether it’s intentional or otherwise, he paves the way for other artists to follow. Like I said earlier, to me A&A haven’t made anything earth-shaking on a personal level, but it’s apparent the band’s style was ahead of its time, looking back on it.

With that said, in spite of my back-handed compliments, it would be silly of me to overlook the fact The Dream Walker came pretty damn close to not only achieving what I imagine to be DeLonge’s long-intended vision for the band, but A&A actually made an album that felt more refined in comparison to previous offerings. Seven years on from that album and it was fairly easy to surmise Lifeforms was quickly becoming the defining Angels & Airwaves experience. The tracks that were drip fed up to its release cemented the album’s foundations, all it had to do was maintain the consistency and pull out a couple of blinders in order to reap the acclamations being placed before its feet.

In essence, those predictions were largely successful. Lifeforms is the most ambitious sounding A&A album yet, filled to the brim with punctilious detail, complex soundscapes, and a trove of styles from various eras in rock’s history being married to A&A’s classic sound. “Time Bomb” and “Euphoria” feel like affable and familiar introductions: sharp, refined tracks that revere the band’s quintessential hallmarks. The former’s trickling electronic introduction, shimmering guitar effects, and DeLonge’s hook-infested vocals are certain to embolden long-time fans with its fidelity to the past; while the latter etches a shade closer to a different sound. “Euphoria” sits firmly on its signature plot of land, but it slices off a tasteful amount of seventies’ prog-rock, albeit in an appropriation kind of way. This is technically down to the incidental Rush-esque synthesisers the track opens up with, but its syncopated rhythm is such an overt nod to the venerable prog legends it’s hard to think of anything else; it’s surface level stuff, but it works so well for the track overall.

Of course, this slow set up and one-two punch down memory lane is put right into context by the time “Spellbound” comes around – the inimitable standout from Lifeforms’ tracklisting. For a band that generally resides in the upbeat sonic spectrum, “Spellbound” is a tenebrous new-wave epic: a linchpin of brooding synth work and scintillating guitar effects that synergise with DeLonge’s subtle vocal approaches, which then get knocked out of the park with big, cathartic choruses. Lifeforms has a diverse arsenal of styles at its disposal, and it’s clear Tom is tapping into a load of his favourite bands and artists. “No More Guns” sounds like a The Clash inspired punk track, while, musically at least, “Automatic” and “Restless Souls” sound like compositions Echo and the Bunnymen would have written back in the eighties. Post-punk in particular plays a prominent role here and is responsible for forming Lifeforms’ character, but its use also authenticates the celestial aesthetic the band have always loved running with. The punk and hard-rock influences are ingrained here, but it’s evident that post-punk is the best representation for A&A’s extraterrestrial wonts.

For a fan of Angels & Airwaves, this album will probably blow your mind. As a casual fan like myself, even I can’t overlook the refined songwriting here. Its cohesive atmosphere is matched only by its densely packed, multi-faceted instrumentation. These tracks are loaded with melodies and little twinkling hooks and things you’ll only discover on repeated listens. This is the best Angels & Airwaves album to date, and it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here. The detrimental qualities to Lifeforms fall on the same things I’ve always disliked about A&A, but are things many people probably enjoy about the band. This, of course, comes from the zealous optimism that has always come across cheesy to me rather than inspiring. Still, the songwriting here is too good to deny, and its shortcomings are merely down to personal preferences. If you’re looking for a well-made rock album with all the pop and punk trimmings, look no further than Lifeforms.



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user ratings (94)
3.6
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
WatchItExplode
September 22nd 2021


9389 Comments


Whaaaaaaaat?? even is this?

Sowing
Moderator
September 22nd 2021


39682 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The only AvA album I really enjoy is Love, but I'll have to check this out. Nice work on the review.

Digging: Converge - Bloodmoon: I

onionbubs
September 22nd 2021


14444 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

love is their worst full length agreed (pt 2 slaps tho)



pretty excited for this honestly 2/3 singles i heard from this were sick and these guys have for the most part only gotten better overtime

Digging: Volumes - Happier?

Atari
Staff Reviewer
September 22nd 2021


26974 Comments


The Dream Walker was awesome and I've enjoyed some of the singles so far

nice thoughtful review here, stoked to here this in full

Digging: Emily Scott Robinson - American Siren

Sowing
Moderator
September 22nd 2021


39682 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nah, Love was great and Part 2 was meh.

Crawl
September 22nd 2021


2859 Comments


It's hard to live when you're hurtinnn

Gyromania
September 22nd 2021


33252 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'm 1000% sure this is a 4.2

Aerisavion
September 22nd 2021


3144 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wasn't expecting such high praise, great read as always.



I'm intrigued.

Feather
September 22nd 2021


7532 Comments


Timebomb sounds like it could have been pulled straight off of Neighborhoods (specifically Ghost on the Dance Floor and Wishing Well) or Dogs Eating Dogs (specifically Pretty Little Girl). Great to hear tbh, I miss that sound!

Next 2 tracks havn't done as much for me, but I will continue through the whole album. Thanks for sharing and reviewing.

haesslichermensch
September 22nd 2021


110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was intrigued by your review and currently listening to the 5 of 10 songs on Apple Music (this sucks and I never do that). A&A typical sound, I love it so far.. Great write up from your side. Thanks

Digging: Mastodon - Hushed and Grim

sharkmsc
September 22nd 2021


368 Comments


"inadvertently comfortable with their discography, with the realisation they were actually consistently good – they never excelled, but it was hard to argue with some of the quality found within those albums"

This is how I've felt from "Love" on. I think a lot of listeners may have assumed the first album (or then even the second) was the full AVA experience, but that turned out to be far from the truth.

Tundra
September 22nd 2021


6688 Comments


the overall avg's for their albums are higher than I thought they'd be

Dmax28
September 22nd 2021


1008 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I can't wait for this to come out so I can hear the 9 minutes that haven't been released so far.

Seriously though this will probably be my favorite A&A album.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 22nd 2021


45892 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

great review, was waiting for this



the good thing about this band is their discog cleaves so cleanly into excellent melodic pop (Dream Walker, Chasing Shadows), the hit-and-miss but generally interesting experiments (Love 2, Stomping and Of Nightmares) and cheesy ass sub-U2 yammering with a small handful of highlights (the first 3 albums)



and bonus positive, I already know exactly which tier this will go in, just a question of whether it tops Dream Walker or not. I'm thinking not, seems to be slightly lacking in the ambitious emotional moments that caught me off guard eg Tunnels and The Disease, though it's compensating nicely with some Box Car Racer style dynamics in Euphoria

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
September 23rd 2021


17279 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

thanks for the kind feedback guys, always appreciated.



@row



i really enjoyed DW but i think this is a bit better and feels more concise, varied and punchy. "spellbound", man, it's probably my favourite tune from the band. i just love how much the album leans on new wave/post punk and i think it really fits their image



definitely looking forward to what you guys all think about this

Digging: Propagandhi - Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes (reissue)

wildinferno2010
September 23rd 2021


1607 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"I can't wait for this to come out so I can hear the 9 minutes that haven't been released so far.

Seriously though this will probably be my favorite A&A album."



yep



I've been enjoying Losing my Mind and Euphoria so much since the last track dump.

Dmax28
September 23rd 2021


1008 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Those are my favorites as well!

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 23rd 2021


45892 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

goddamn Automatic is boppin



Spellbound is really really good too yeah

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 23rd 2021


45892 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

not sure if it'll top TDW in the long run but is good shit. they def saved some of the strongest for the end with Timebomb and Automatic, but I'm especially loving Nameless Town. such a cool vibe for them with the soundscape and Ilan's harmony vocals, I don't understand why that wasn't the closer



No More Guns is the only kinda misstep here but I was still tapping my feet to it lmao good shit

onionbubs
September 23rd 2021


14444 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wont be jamming until much later very excited to get very high and have tom send me to space tonight



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