Smoke & Mirrors Review

artist: Lifehouse date: 03/02/2010 category: compact discs
Lifehouse: Smoke & Mirrors
Released: Mar 2, 2010
Genre: Pop Rock
Label: Dreamworks/Geffen
Number Of Tracks: 12 (16 on Deluxe Edition)
Lifehouse sticks with a tried-and-true pop-rock formula on its fifth studio album Smoke & Mirrors.
 Sound: 6
 Lyrics: 6.7
 Overall Impression: 6.3
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reviews (3) 10 comments vote for this album:
overall: 6.3
Smoke & Mirrors Featured review by: UG Team, on march 02, 2010
2 of 4 people found this review helpful

Sound: Although there has been chatter that Lifehouse's latest album Smoke & Mirrors would possibly delve into more of a classic rock sound, the new material is still fodder although pleasant fodder for pop radio stations. That's not to say that the Los Angeles quartet can't write a catchy tune because they very much can. The issue is that many of the tracks on Smoke & Mirrors do have a similar arrangement (and melody at times) to the past hit singles You and Me and First Time. Anyone looking for a huge stretch will likely be disappointed, but the band should still find at least a few of the tracks placing impressive ranks on the Billboard charts.

The album starts out very much in the vein of First Time with the track All In, an up-tempo pop offering with an instantly hummable chorus. Halfway Gone is a bit more laid-back in its approach, but it still has enough hooks and infectious backing whoas in the chorus to set it apart. Smoke & Mirrors finds a nice balance between feel-good pop rock and straightforward ballad work, which again, makes sense for a band that has found a comfortable niche in the music industry.

There is a bit of teasing in the sense that there are moments that you think Lifehouse is going to deliver something insanely out of the ordinary. The band does have its moments, but they tend to be fleeting. Nerve Damage stands out as being one of the most adventurous musical ventures at least in terms of Lifehouse. Beginning with nothing but vocals and a guitar with a fairly clean tone, you almost get the sense this is going to be an all-out ballad. When the chorus approaches, however, the song does take a turn for a more rock-oriented sound, and there's even a slightly bluesy solo within the track. By far the most interesting track is Here Tomorrow, which tweaks the vocals and even includes an effect that sounds akin to a sitar. Both Nerve Damage and Here Tomorrow are satisfying offerings, and Lifehouse would be doing itself a favor by tackling more unique arrangements. // 6

Lyrics: The band's fifth album contains most of the same themes that we've heard on past recordings, with relationships and love definitely taking the central focus. There is a common approach to most of the songs, which certainly should appeal to the specific fan base the band has already accrued over the years. Whether it's about general reflection on a relationship in peril like in the title track (Now the days roll hard and the nights move fast; They say be careful what you wish; But having everything means nothing to me now; What we had, everything I miss) or, well, even more heartache in By Your Side (I'll be by your side, when all hope has died; I will still be around oh and I, I'm still on your side), Lifehouse has the market cornered on love-related material. // 7

Overall Impression: Smoke & Mirrors is a likeable album, but it sounds like so much of what we already hear on pop rock radio. You could certainly draw comparisons to David Cook or Daughtry, and the latter artist actually makes a guest appearance on the track Had Enough. If you've been a fan of Lifehouse's past Billboard hits, you'll easily find Smoke & Mirrors a perfect next step for the band. At times the album is simply just too predictable, however, and you leave wishing that the band would take a few more chances. // 6

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overall: 6
Smoke & Mirrors Reviewed by: JPriceless101, on march 04, 2010
1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 5

Lyrics: 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. // 7

Overall Impression: 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. // 6

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overall: 6.7
Smoke & Mirrors Reviewed by: Doowhop, on march 04, 2010
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: The 5th record of Lifehouse is still good stuff, musically. That's the first thing I'd like to mention. And yes, some might get it anyway, I am a fan of Lifehouses Music. But still I'm trying to see this from a neutral point of view. The sound has changed compared to previous records, and I believe it's gotten more like "mainstream rock-pop/ indie rock", but nevertheless it's catchy and likely to make people sing along. And maybe that's all Lifehouse wanted, to give back to their fans by making a record with instinctive basic rock tunes and just let them enjoy the not-so-super-phat menu. For the Bryce-Leadsinging, I don't believe it to be that bad. Right, if you wash any voice hard enough through a studio computer it will sound okay, but on the other hand, tell me only one musician who sings live songs better and clearer and without any f-ups, as to what it sounds like on studio records ?! ... Anyone on your mind? I knew so. Some people might downrate this record's sound because it seems every song sounds like the other, but in that case, I'd advise people to listen deeper beyond and not compare all the songs to each other. // 7

Lyrics: The Lyrics impression to me is not as good as on Lifehouses last record "Who We Are", although I acknowledge they put songs on this one like "From where You are" which I like a lot. It seems to me that the root subject of Lifehouses songwriting, Love and Relationships / Friendships has been utilized, and nothing far beyond that would be needed. That's okay as long as people and Lifehouse-Fans can identify with the Lyrics and their message, and I believe Lifehouse have got that done pretty well. Again, this Rating is a 6.5 actually. // 6

Overall Impression: When I compare this Record to others I like best right now, like Nickelbacks "Dark Horse / All the Right Reasons" or Daughtrys "Leave this Town", Lifehouses record falls a little far behind, but it's still an important piece and maybe this Album is meant to serve as a Live Show template rather than anything else. I like this Record, would love to hear those Songs live and wouldn't want it to miss from within my Collection, but it's propably only really good for the real Lifehouse Fans. I'd still present this Album to anyone who's not a fan, just to see what they think of it. In the End, that's just what everyone should find out for themselves. I don't like the track "Near Life Experience" and maybe "Halfway Gone" is too catchy and flat. But impressive to me are the less-known songs like "From where You are" and "Crash & Burn", and the re-recording of "Everything" is nice and worked well with this Record. Give "Smoke & Mirrors" a spin. It's worth it after all (and a 7.5 really). // 7

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