Sound — 5
Ever since Lifehouse hit the scene in 2000 with the hit single Hanging By A Moment, the band has done a fantastic job at making every genre it has experimented with sound great. Unfortunately, the band's lastest album called Smoke & Mirrors is an overall turn in the wrong direction. Starting off with the song All In, Lifehouse throws out a radio-friendly single right off the bat. The chorus of the song rocks well enough and will remind fans of past singles like Spin and First Time. Nerve Damage comes up next and offers some interesting new sounds from Lifehouse that will take the listener on a ride. The tension that builds and recedes throughout the song with the drums and guitar is very intriguing. Also, there is a jazz-like feel throughout the verses and a jazz-like guitar solo after a rocking instrumental interlude. Nerve Damage is Lifehouse's most successful experimental effort on the album. Yet, beyond the opening songs, the album seems to get lost in an array of misguided attempts at making generic radio singles. It Is What It Is sounds more like an R&B song where lead-singer Jason Wade's voice just doesn't seem to fit right. The listener will feel like Boys II Men will be jumping in at any second. Here Tomorrow Gone Today sounds like an awkward attempt at club-style music with over-synthesized music and vocals. Lifehouse seemed to make a juvenile attempt to attract a wider range of audience members with It Is What It Is and Here Tomorrow Gone Today. Since Lifehouse is a band not known for moving too far away from its success in alt-rock, it's easy to see why those songs just don't work. Had Enough is another song created for the purpose of attracting new listeners. With Chris Daughtry providing back-up vocals in the song, it won't be surprising to hear this song on the radio since Lifehouse will likely lure the some of the massive Daughtry following. Still, the song sounds like Lifehouse didn't attempt to put any of its own influence it. Had Enough sounds like a song better suited for a Daughtry album. Still, the album offers some bright spots. The title track and In Your Skin will likely be well-listened to by Lifehouse fans. Also, past single From Where You Are makes a slightly re-mastered appearance on the album. Each of those songs includes Lifehouse's ability to find harmony between music and lyrics. Fans lucky enough to own the deluxe version of Smoke & Mirrors will also hear a new version of the band's popular song Everything. The new version is played in a lower key and it removes the violins and cellos and replaces them with echoing guitars. All That I'm Asking For is a very gentle song too that provides some new sounds and will remind listeners of past song Storm with in its approach. It should also be noted that bassist and back-up vocalist Bryce Soderberg gets his first shot at lead vocals in the song Wrecking Ball. Athough Soderberg holds his own, listeners will be wondering why Wade isn't providing the lead vocals. Athough Soderberg's attempt on lead vocals might have seemed like a good idea at first, Wrecking Ball just ends up sounding like an unnecessary gimmick. The overall sound of the album Smoke & Mirrors is much more experimental than any pervious Lifehouse endeavors. Although the effort was there, the album never seems to "gel" together musically.
Lyrics — 7
One of the main staples in Lifehouse's success and popularity is the songwriting abilities of singer Jason Wade. Wade sticks to his guns and once again does a good job at communicating his usual themes. Themes include the grief in losing a loved one in From Where You Are (I miss the years that were erased; I miss the way the sunlight would light up your face) or just the simple struggles of finding one's place in the world in Nerve Damage (Life takes its toll; You push and it pulls; You're losing control). Of course, Wade frequents the broad theme of love thoughout the album. Lifehouse fans will be happy with Wade's song lyrics once again even though not much has changed in his themes. The effectiveness in communicating the emotion and purpose of the lyrics is still there most of the time. Still, this album seems more driven by musical endeavors rather than lyrical or philosophical reasons.
Overall Impression — 6
In the end, Smoke & Mirrors just comes across as generic and predictable. It has its moments with "Nerve Damage", "From Where You Are" and "In Your Skin" Still, this album shows that Lifehouse is obviously content with being known as a radio-friendly, pop-rock band. Although the band will still get its air time, it seems that Lifehouse is more focused on hits rather than its beloved process of lyrics and song. The fact that Lifehouse is known for much better efforts than Smoke & Mirrors will save this album from being ignored. Smoke & Mirrors is a far cry from Lifehouse's epic debut album No Name Face where the lyrics seemed to be the driving force of the entire record.