Lifehouse's debut album, No Name Face, debuted almost a decade ago, and, along with it, the most popular song of 2001, "Hanging By A Moment." Sadly, ten years later that single still represents the pinnacle of the band's career. However, Lifehouse is still around, and their latest album Smoke And Mirrors is already showing a strong profit. The release has garnered the number six spot on the Billboard Top 200 which is a first for the quartet.
The tempo of Smoke And Mirrors is rockier than previous albums this time around, and will sit well for fans of 3 Doors Down and Daughtry. Speaking of Chris Daughtry, he guest stars on the pop rock track, "Had Enough," which is slightly reminiscent Skillet's "Older I Get." "Had Enough" is the softest song in a bouquet of rock tracks dropped on the first third of the album. While the guitar-driven solid rock song, "All In," is not overwhelming, the fiery "Nerve Damage" has an explosive chorus to accompany its southern sounding verses. Jason Wade's intense lead vocals make the effective rock song "Halfway Gone" an easy album highlight as well as a hit single. From then on, the album slows down considerably with just a couple bursts of energy originating from the title track and gritty, electronically-fused "Here Tomorrow, Gone Today." The six or so ballads on the project are a mixed bag of emotionally-filled sentiments and uneventful clichés which lack novelty and may only appeal to Lifehouse fans. The pop influence and clever hooks makes "Falling In" an enjoyable track, and, despite some odd guitar strings on "Wrecking Ball," the song has a fun refrain. Unfortunately the final two ballads are so dry that Smoke And Mirrors wouldn't have been any less without their contributions.
To expect that Lifehouse would offer a God-centered album is a little presumptuous. Older Lifehouse songs like "Storm" and "Wash" (which had spiritual themes) are virtually absent and leave the twelve songs to center largely on the conflict of earthly relationships. Fortunately, the only objectionable issue comes from the title track which describes two people living together without marital context. However, throughout the album, the singer often shows fine characteristic such as compassion, commitment and responsibility. It is surprising though to see a number cliché lyrics weaved through the project. Both "It Is What It Is" and "Falling In" are a bit trite (the latter song states "Everytime I see your face/My heart takes off on a high speed chase/Now don't be scared, it's only love/Baby, that we're falling in").
Although the deluxe edition doesn't offer the common DVD, it does contain three previously unreleaseed songs and the live in studio version of the decade-old "Everything." The live version of "Everything" certainly sounds more refined, and its message (which could be interpreted as a worship song) remains intact ("I need to hear you/you are the light/that's leading me/to the place/where I find peace again"). "All I'm Asking For" has a theme that could be interpreted as a song to God, but the pronouns are ambiguous and the line "we're both human now" acts as a clincher. The music driving that song and "Crash and Burn" isn't terribly innovative and does diminish the appeal of the deluxe edition. However, "Near Life Experience" is a very solid guitar-driven ballad which has a Jon Foreman or Bob Dylan aura. Sadly, its hopeful theme is marred by a poor use of the word "hell."
Smoke And Mirrors offers a nice selection of rock tunes which should re-attract some who may have written off Lifehouse as a strictly adult-contemporary/pop group. It didn't take me long to dig into the emotion-filled rock tracks which nicely balanced out the ballads. But after several spins, I lost much of my initial fervor towards Smoke And Mirrors. There is no doubt that Lifehouse has brought a fine tuned album to the table lyrically, but those who seek eternally minded lyrics might want to look elsewhere.- Review date: 3/17/10, written by Nathaniel Schexnayder of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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