Smoke & Mirrors

Written by: PP on 01/05/2010 05:00:56

Hey ho! It's been a while since my last review, thanks to an ever-pressing uni schedule, Groezrock festival, and whatever else excuse I can come up with for my least active review period in as long as I can remember. That's about to change soon, and the first victim in my slaughterhouse is the new Lifehouse album "Smoke & Mirrors". Now, the last time I properly checked out Lifehouse was on their debut album "No Name Face" almost ten years ago, which still to date stands as one of the finest pop rock / mainstream rock albums released in the last decade if you ask me. "Stanley Climbfall" was decent but mostly a turnoff to anyone who liked "Hanging By A Moment", and the albums since have been surfing in more or less nonexistent waves at least on this side of the pond.

So what are the band up to on their fifth studio album, "Smoke & Mirrors"? More of the same radio-safe pop rock driven by ultra simple structure and soft, slightly post-grungy vocals. If that's the case, why is "Smoke & Mirrors" not at all comparable to the band's debut (and in part sophomore) albums? Simply put, the album lacks feeling. It lacks soul. It lacks the ability to convince its listener that Jason Wade really means what he sings, that the words are pouring out of his heart, like so many tracks on "No Name Face" demonstrated. Instead, you're treated to overproduced and completely unambitious garbage suited for the ignorant masses but not for anyone reading this site.

The songs range from the standard acoustic guitar lead ballads to driving alternative rock cuts, with an occasional proggy intro riff stolen from Led Zeppelin here and there, plus a whole bunch of filler in between the hits. "All In", "Halfway Gone", "Falling In", and especially "From Where You Are" are all tracks that should receive regular radio rotation, as they don't just share an infectious chorus in between them, but they also act as glittering examples of Jason Wade's ability to sing really, really well if he wants to. Or rather, if the producer allows him to. Why must he be drowned out with stupid dance beats, when he's the heart and soul of this band. The rare moments of "Smoke & Mirrors" where I don't feel like I'm being force-fed major label garbage is during the silent passages where it's just Wade's voice and maybe a gentle acoustic guitar supporting him. As if that wasn't enough, the band overstays it's welcome by at least three tracks despite this being a 12 track record (17 if you have the international deluxe edition!), because there's just so much boring filler in between the decent cuts. So my advice is: don't come looking for the emotionally charged feeling of "No Name Face" nor the skilled songwriting of that album, as neither is to be found here.


Download: From Where You Are, In Your Skin, All In
For the fans of: Matchbox Twenty, Daughtry, Train
Listen: Myspace

Release date 02.03.2010

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