Lifehouse released their fifth studio album, titled “Smoke & Mirrors,” on March 2. It is a predictable twelve-song collection sending the listener through a sullen tale of a love once cherished, but now quickly fading… or “Halfway Gone,” the first release to this album. Since releasing their first song, “Hanging by a Moment” in 2001, the two remaining original band members, lead singer/guitarist Jason Wade and drummer Rick Woolstenhulme Jr., have successfully remained afloat via movie and television soundtracks but have yet to reach the level of their first album, “No Name Face.”
Experimenting with a more raw and live sound yet staying with the commercial catchy rock ballads that keep them thriving, Lifehouse has sprinkled “Smoke & Mirrors” with tracks that radio stations and fans will surely cling to. And although this album has not dramatically sent them to a different level or sound, it is clear that 10 years later, a more mature band has ascended.
The powerful opener “All In” – a perfect foreshadowing for most of the songs that follow – instantly triggered memories of “Hanging by a Moment,” which includes lyrics “nothing left to lose, nothing left to hide.” “All In” says, “all in, nothing left to hide I’m falling harder than a landslide.” This same theme lingers throughout their past and this album.
Track two, “By Your Side,” is mysterious, with a taste of Silverchair and a Johnny Lang bluesy instrumental bridge; unique for Lifehouse, exciting for me. In true Lifehouse fashion, “Falling In,” “From Where You Are,” “In Your Skin” and “It Is What It Is” are all very similar to one another, with an upbeat depiction of love going wrong.
“Had Enough” (featuring Chris Daughtry) and “Halfway Gone” are slower songs with ripping choruses about missing and denying what will never be. The title track, “Smoke & Mirrors,” is more or less like the others… of a relationship fading away, despite the fact that they remain the same.
“Nerve Damage” stands out from the rest (albeit negatively) because, unfortunately, I’m reminded of Britney Spears with its electronic beats and strange effects. It’s about giving power back to men that don’t want to be played by women game players. Sorry, not working.
Listening to this album sent me through a pop rock journey of today, and with the exception of “Nerve Damage,” it is quite easy to listen to, as it is cohesive, clean and for the band, a little edgy. Sounds of Nickelback, One Republic and The Frey are heard throughout. But for someone without a keen liking to this band, I did feel like I was hanging by the moment, swinging back and forth, searching and waiting for something different and challenging. It felt like the love they kept crying about – halfway gone, but still too fresh to be given up on. Lifehouse has yet to hook me completely, but through this new album, I do see a progression into a more mature band. Until they start singing about new subject matters, however, I’m not sure I can jump on it.