tumblr_mn4v1iFEE71qm9pv9o1_500One has to wonder what guitarist Tomo Miličević was really doing half the time while 30 Seconds to Mars recorded their latest album, Love Lust Faith + Dreams, because there’s really not a whole lot of guitar to speak of. It’s been replaced by synths, orchestral swells, and electronic percussion sounds (which begs the question of what drummer Shannon Leto was doing half the time, too). I guess they were busy fiddling with keyboards and drum machines, because I’m afraid 30STM’s latest album sees the band give way to the over-processed modern dance-pop sound instead of the straight-ahead alternative rock from their early days, or even the U2-inspired arena-rock from their last disc, 2009’s This Is War.

Jared Leto and company try so hard to be astronomically grandiose, to be the biggest band on the planet, to be some kind of rock messiahs, that it just ends up coming across as empty, contrived, and more than a little cheesy. This trend reared its head occasionally on This Is War, but I did like that album because I felt the grandiose ambitions didn’t completely overwhelm the quality of music. On Love Lust Faith + Dreams, the ambition has eclipsed everything else.

Little things irritate me about this record. It’s divided into four categories, based on the four names in the title of the disc. Okay, good enough. So then why is “End of All Days,” whose chorus finds Jared repeating “All we need is faith” over and over in his best Rhianna impression, found in the “Lust” section? Further down, we come across “Bright Lights,” which in its defense is probably one of the more solid songs, if we were forced to pick. Three tracks later a song comes along called “Northern Lights.” Bright lights, Northern lights… too many lights. It bugs me when track names are so similar, especially found so close together and not intended to complement one another.

Lead single “Up In The Air” sounds like a dancey Maroon 5 song… not that I have anything against Maroon 5, since they never claimed to be anything other than what they were. The aforementioned “End of All Days” sounds like a Rhianna piano ballad with Leto’s voice instead of Rhianna. The interlude-esque “Pires of Varanasi” brings in some world music touches along with orchestra dirges ripped straight from The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack… it might be cool if it wasn’t so cheesy. “Do or Die” is an okay song, probably one of the better ones, although the main riff sounds very similar to “Night of the Hunter” from This Is War.

Almost every song utilizes a four-on-the-floor quarter-note bass drum pulse, giving almost every track a dancey club feel, considering the bass drum is heavily processed every time. It’s as if 30STM pulled the classic “sell out” maneuver, changing their sound to suit the mainstream radio crowd, but the band members remain completely oblivious and think their music is the greatest gift to mankind that they could have possibly rendered. Okay, so Jared Leto’s voice is very impressive, as always, but his lyrics are so unimaginative, so pompously grandiose, that he comes across as a self-important rock star with a god complex.

If 30 Seconds to Mars had turned down the cheese factor, upped the humble factor, and focused more on inventive and exciting songwriting, Love Lust Faith + Dreams might have impressed me more as the follow-up to This Is War. Years ago, I read an article in which a bandleader complained that Jared Leto was just acting out the part of a rock star frontman. I didn’t agree at the time, thinking that those other bandleaders wouldn’t say that if Jared Leto wasn’t in fact a successful actor. Now, though, I’m starting to agree with that sentiment. It seems like 30STM is more focused on acting out the image and grandiose messages they wish to send, rather than the actual quality of music they’re putting out. Even if that’s totally not what they think, Love Lust Faith + Dreams certainly makes it come across that way.

~ J.M.

Comments
  1. Deanna says:

    Although this view makes sense, I would like to point out two things; as for saying there is barely any guitar and so where is Tomo, Tomo is also trained classically in both violin and cello. Shannon is also playing on the drums, the ‘synth’ has been added after as they can’t have it like that necessarily for live shows – in which they have a lot to stand up too in regards to previous performances.

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