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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Lifehouse

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Mar
  • COMMENTS
Lifehouse
Sounds like … the band gravitating away from Creed-styled neo-grunge in favor of more acoustic Beatle-esque similar to Jars of Clay, Neil Finn, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Elliot Smith.At a glance … the downplayed spirituality and lack of a strong rock radio single makes this Lifehouse's weakest to date, but the songs are crafted and performed strongly enough to be appreciated.Track ListingCome Back DownYou and MeBlindAll in AllBetter LuckDays Go ByInto the SunUndoneWe'll Never KnowWalking AwayChapter OneThe End

It doesn't seem like five years since Lifehouse first made their splash with 2000's multi-platinum No Name Face. Perhaps the time seems so short because the band rode for so long on the success of #1 hit "Hanging by a Moment," the most-played song of 2001 on a variety of radio formats, including Christian radio. Yet much has changed for Lifehouse since. Twenty-something singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jason Wade has married. The band's original bassist Sergio Andrade left in 2004; Bryce Soderberg fills his vacancy, joining drummer Rick Woolstenhulme. And Lifehouse's label Dreamworks folded, though they now continue on Geffen Records.

The most noticeable change, however, is the band's continued evolution in sound. Many have speculated that Lifehouse wouldn't last very long if Wade and company continued to draw comparisons to neo-grunge acts like Creed. Sure enough, 2002's Stanley Climbfall embraced more of a Beatles and Led Zeppelin classic rock influenced sound—the album didn't perform as well, though one could argue that the runaway success of "Hanging by a Moment" made all the difference.

Now comes Lifehouse's eponymous third recording, and it finds the band gravitating even closer to Beatle-esque rock. Not so much the psychedelic art-pop often associated with the Fab Four, but as heard in "Days Go By," more like the simply arranged melodic rock that typified bands like Crowded House, Matchbox Twenty, and Jars of Clay. Neil Finn and Toad the Wet Sprocket are close comparisons for songs like "Undone" and "We'll Never Know." Prominent Wurlitzer piano by Wade helps give "Chapter One" an almost smooth '70s pop/rock feel reminiscent of Lennon and McCartney's solo work.

The album is fairly subdued in comparison to the previous two, and those insistent on the heavier sonic blasts of "Hanging by a Moment" and "Spin" are bound to be a bit disappointed. But the relatively mellow first radio single "You and Me," built around strings and acoustic guitar, doesn't represent the album either. Fans will find "Blind," "Better Luck Next Time," and "Walking Away" in step with the band's style. And with the sound less bombastic, Wade's voice sounds less like Scott Stapp (Creed) and more like Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder—undoubtedly one of his greatest influences.

Also relatively downplayed on this album is the lyrical spirituality. Though Lifehouse got its start in a Vineyard church out of Los Angeles, they've never been one to wear faith on their sleeve. Yet while they weren't overtly written and open to multiple interpretations, Christians could find enough to assume where Wade was coming from. This time, many of the songs reflect on Wade coming to grips with the divorce of his missionary parents when he was twelve, and his strained relationship with his father since then. "Better Luck Next Time" in particular touches on this: "Sometimes we fall/Ain't nothing new to me/Don't get me wrong/I'm a son you gave up for this child." There's similar melancholic reflection in "Walking Away," and "Into the Sun" seems to assess these relationships today.

Yet while the Christianity is more downplayed onLifehouse, listeners can't say these songs definitively aren't about faith, just as previous songs weren't necessarily only about faith either. "Come Back Down" is an example of encouragement and comfort to a friend or loved one: "I'll be there for you/Don't have to be alone with what you're going through … I hope that you can find your way back to the place where you belong." Wade primarily offers themes of perseverance ("Chapter One," "All in All") and overcoming heartache in order to live life ("Days Go By," "Undone"). The album closes with "The End," which notes that, "These times where the world falls apart make us who we are."

Both of Lifehouse's previous albums are stronger than this one, and the band's future seems questionable because of the lack of strong radio singles to draw new listeners in. But Lifehouse has also wisely tried to mature their sound, and the results are hardly a failure: excellent melodies, personalized songwriting from the heart, and an ear for the little things that made classic rock great. If Wade and his bandmates can continues to push themselves by diversifying their sound and take artistic risks with the music, we may yet be discussing Lifehouse another five years from now.


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