Lifehouse – Almeria
(Geffen/Interscope – December 11, 2012)
In the early 2000’s, Lifehouse burst into the international music scene with “No Name Face” and hit single “Hanging by a Moment” in particular. Over the years they added on to their success with four more albums and the singles that went with them. Particularly “You and Me”, “Broken”, “First Time” and “From Where You Are” established their name, particularly in the US, but with the release of the latest albums (“Who We Are” and “Smoke & Mirrors”) they found themselves back in the picture in Europe and Asia as well.
While the band has steadily moved away from the imagery and meaningful lyrics combined with accessible and melodic rock towards a more pop-oriented, radio-friendly style of music, the songs have always managed to capture the hearts of fans. And while more criticism started to surface after the release of “Smoke & Mirrors”, the general feeling among fans and listeners was still that there was a ‘Lifehouse sound’.
With the release of this new album, called “Almeria”, the band continues the road of more generic, radio-friendly pop songs. For a band that was once praised for the imaginative and inspirational messages and lyrics in their music, they let that slip as well. Most of the songs on the album were at least co-written by others, some of the songs even primarily written by others. The first songs released off “Almeria”, lead single “Between The Raindrops” and “Nobody Listen” are decent songs in itself but do not show any imagination or creativity. The former is a collaboration with Aussie superstar Natasha Bedingfield, and while the vocal match between her and lead singer Jason Wade is likeable, the song itself seems to suffer from being ‘just not it’. It was released as a lead single and has a certain catchiness to it, but not the kind of catchiness required to become a massive radio hit. There’s no signature in the song, it’s just a nice song, nothing more than that, nothing special. “Nobody Listen” is even worse, as the song is deprived of all emotion and comes across as bland, boring even.
When we take a listen to the rest of the album, we find that choruses are scarce and lyrics are often very predictable. It won’t take the fans very long to memorize these lyrics as they won’t really be challenged. The poor production of “Almeria”, combined with the overuse of autotune on selected songs and distracting ‘bells & whistles’ make this album sound forced and not very believable. The attempt to insert a little country twang into the mix, which fits with the album title and general theme of the album can’t mask the poor songwriting and repetitiveness of the songs on this album. “Moveonday” has a nice groove to it, but the song never lifts itself out of the ‘average category’. Lead off track “Gotta Be Tonight” has energy, which makes it one of the more entertaining songs on the album, but lyrically there’s hardly any content and once again, the song carries on the same way all through the song.
The fans of Lifehouse may find “Right Back Home”, which was co-written by Peter Frampton and also features him on guitar and sir Charles Jones as a guest vocalist, a refreshing sound. The rootsy yet classic vibe on the song gives it more body, musically. And also lyrically there is a little more to it. For the first time on this album, you get the feeling there’s a story behind the song. And while the next two songs, “Barricade” and “Aftermath” are also quite predictable, they feature a little more lyrical content and “Aftermath” in particular provides a glimpse of Lifehouse as we’ve become used to over the years. Not on the same level, but it does give one a taste of their signature sound.
So, when we sum up Lifehouse’s new album, we can only say it is disappointing. It might have some commercial success because some of the songs are quite catchy, but because the songs are so predictable and repetitive, they aren’t memorable, so real succes may be a stretch. This may cause Lifehouse to take a long, hard look at themselves and reconsider their artistic path into the future, because they seem to have lost their way, artistically.