Monday, March 1, 2010

Lifehouse album review

Smoke and Mirrors
Grade: B

On “Here Tomorrow, Gone Today,” a seething rocker with Middle Eastern overtones, Jason Wade snarls “we don’t want what you’re giving away.” Rejection hasn’t really been a problem for Lifehouse. Since forming a decade ago, the LA-based pop/rock band sold over five million albums and crafted singles that became fixtures at multiple radio formats (“Hanging by a Moment,” “You and Me”).

Their widespread appeal comes from earnest, hook-laden rock tunes guys dig and romantic ballads that make girls swoon. Fifth album Smoke and Mirrors finds the quartet shaking up the formula just enough to keep things from becoming stagnant.

Front man Wade collaborated with outside musicians for the first time and the results are impressive. Rapper/guitarist Kevin Rudolf (Lil Wayne, Timbaland) co-wrote initial single “Halfway Gone” and “Falling In,” which is notable for rare Lifehouse drum programming. The intricate and catchy “Had Enough” was co-penned by Chris Daughtry (who also sings background) and veteran Richard Marx.

The addition of second guitarist Ben Carey strengthened the Lifehouse sound, especially during “Nerve Damage.” Quite a departure, it features skittering beats, an axe solo that goes into classic rock overdrive and Wade wrapping his raspy voice around lyrics about a “new circus freak with black eyes that speak.” Elsewhere, bassist Bryce Soderberg does a fine job on the edgy and engaging “Wrecking Ball” (his debut lead vocal); the discontented title track is bolstered by swelling organ work.

Diehard fans should opt for the deluxe version containing four bonus tracks. The laid back folk/rocker “Near Life Experience” finds Wade sounding like John Mellencamp and exposed like never before.

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