We have such easy access to music today that its impossible to be fully aware of the avalanche of music that is actually out there. Not too long ago the only place you would buy albums, singles, tapes (remember them?) and DVD’s/videos was at your friendly neighbourhood record shop. You could only read about it in the likes of the NME, Melody Maker or the other trade magazines. You could only see it on TV on ‘Top of the Pops’ or the rather worthy ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’. My point here is that if you were a fan things didn’t get past you. It’s different now and it’s easy to entirely miss things because we have so much easy access. So it is with Lifehouse, who have put out several albums stretching back to 2001, and have been pretty successful in the USA sometime – but they are an entirely new name to me.
Now, that doesn’t mean that this pretty decent pop/rock album is going to lead me to investigate their significant back catalogue. I’m not going to tell you that this is the best album I’ve heard this year but what I will say is that if you like anthem focused power ballads with huge swelling choruses, crashing chords and heartfelt vocals then this album is for you. That approach is typified by ‘Flight’ that commences with a gentle piano refrain and a melancholic vocal that slowly builds into passionate affirmation of strength and vitality. It’s the kind of thing that you can imagine inciting a near riot on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury on a Saturday night headline spot.
That’s smartly followed by ‘Runaways’ that starts off with a big and ballsy chorus and thundering drums. It’s not all crashing anthems though there’s plenty of thoughtful ballads and singer/writer Jason Wade turns in an adept phrase in a nice and easy way. The band have sold 15 million albums in the States and have had their songs featured in films like ‘Shrek’, ‘The Wild’ and ‘Wicker Park’. That’s entirely fitting because the songs have a wide screen cinematic feel and the production is upbeat and full, with everything crystal clear. The overall sound is one that absorbs influences from the likes of the ‘Big Music’ of vintage Waterboys, Simple Minds at their best and some touches of U2 (in a good way!). It’s dramatic without being bombastic and the melody is deeply ingrained in the music.
Hurricane by Lifehouse
‘Central Park’ has some nice reverb guitar running through it and the plaintive piano gives the song an almost hymnal feeling with tales of ghosts, sadness and loss. ‘Yesterday’s Son’ is the highlight for me, commencing with a gentle piano and some out there guitar floating in the background. They are silenced by a gorgeous a Capella vocal that is soon joined by a haunting synthizer and some insistent gentle drumming. It builds with some light acoustic guitar before everything collates into a tremendous ballad of hope. ‘Hindsight’ is probably the encapsulation of everything they do well. It’s a fast paced melodic rock anthem that screams “Never give up/Never look down/Never look back/hindsight only leaves me blinded” while the guitars thunder alongside the strident vocals of Wade.
This is a fine introduction to this band if you aren’t familiar with them, and you enjoy brilliantly produced rock/pop with flashing guitars big choruses and decent song writing. There’s no doubt that Lifehouse deliver that high quality musicianship and material that’s sadly lacking in most of the watery anaemic pop you hear too much today. God bless ’em.
Reviewer: Greg Johnson