When Thirty Seconds To Mars hit the big time with second album A Beautiful Lie, they were a rock band, plain and simple. Songs were good, fairly straight forward affairs with a few layers to them. I really enjoyed that album, but somewhere in between that and subsequent release This Is War, I thought self-importance and delusions of grandeur had taken hold and led to an arrogant and pretentious follow up.
On then to Love Lust Faith + Dreams. Initially I was apprehensive. Having been hugely pleased then hugely disappointed with the former LP’s I really wasn’t sure what I was going to get this time round. The only material I’d seen beforehand was the video for single “Up in the Air” which suffers from a narcissistic need to make ‘art’ and not just a cool video. It is however a very good tune which gets better with every listen and is actually quite indicative of most of the rest of the album content. Everything has a shiny carefully produced feel to it which I’d normally complain about, but here it suits the music rather than feeling plasticky and false.
Ignoring intro fluff track one, the first proper song “Conquistador” is the most natural sounding on the album and in its opening licks shows echoes of latter day AFI. I had a brief bit of hope that they’d gone back toward an earlier sound but as the album progresses it becomes evident this isn’t the case at all. It is at the same time a contained yet exploratory album. It feels more focussed than This Is War did but contains a mix of styles and sounds. I like the orchestrated moments and the use of big deep horns like the ones you hear on pretty much every movie trailer these days, though often those moments are more filler than song. Excluding the intro track, the first four songs are definitely the easiest to digest before a two track dip, two more slices of radio friendly fun (bar the odd F word) and then the album takes on more exploratory elements towards its climax.
Mid way point “Pyres of Varanasi” makes me think Jared Leto wants back into movies but doing soundtracks instead, as does outro “Depuis Le Début . They’re forgettable skippable tracks though, and I much preferred the much better bits of pop entertainment. I’m putting my money on “Bright Lights” as the second single mainly because of its Cyndi Lauper like “uh-uh-oh” moments. There are some nice moments that merge natural sound with synthetic augmentation such as the slow “End of All Days” which is piano led and orchestrated yet doesn’t feature any real life percussion as far as I can tell.
I was a bit dubious at first and still think it lulls a little in the middle and could do with a few more actual songs than soundtrack trials, but I’m actually quite enjoying it. It’s not often that a record comes along that I’ll happily let loop over and over yet not fall in love with and so I’m not sure of its longevity. The This Is War generation of fans will lap it up mind you. Personally, I’m enjoying it now, but will I still if I play it again after a month of other music?
Love Lust Faith + Dreams occasionally still smacks of some of the wankiness that infected its predecessor, but at its core it’s listenable and enjoyable and in the end that’s all I ask for in a record. Decent.