CD Review: Lifehouse “Smoke & Mirrors”

Lifehouse - Smoke and Mirrors

Lifehouse is back with a new record, “Smoke & Mirrors”, the follow up to the strong “Who We Are”. “Smoke & Mirrors”, their fifth album, has already earned distinction as being the highest charting Lifehouse record yet, debuting at #6 on the BillBoard charts.

It is hard to believe that their smash debut, “No Name Face”, landed in 2000. After ten years, you would expect a band to have perfected their chemistry and know exactly who they are – such is true for Lifehouse. If anything, the band has been steady and consistent, always delivering a batch of succinct, radio-friendly rockers and acoustic driven ballads. Why would a band want to risk screwing around with a formula that has been so good to them? Bearing that in mind, “Smoke & Mirrors” has no new tricks up its sleeve and is yet another CD full of more of the same. Like Collective Soul, the latest Lifehouse albums are largely indistinguishable. There is only one moment of deviation in the ‘trying too hard to make you dance’ “Here Tomorrow Gone Today”, and its miserable failure is strong evidence why Lifehouse should do nothing but what made them famous in the first place.

Producer and AOR star Jude Cole is back on board to lend his expertise on “Smoke & Mirrors” – he also plays, sings, and co-writes extensively on this record, so they should just make him a fifth member of the band. Other guests include Daughtry on “Had Enough”, which was co-written by Richard Marx. The infectious first single, “Halfway Gone” is the clear stand out on the record, but other notables include “All In”, “Falling In”, “By Your Side”, and the title track. “Wrecking Ball” marks bassist Bryce Soderberg‘s first lead vocal with the band – his style and tone is very similar to Jason Wade, so most listeners may not even notice the switch. Lifehouse seemed to struggle in writing a compelling ballad like “You and Me” this time around, but the introspective mid-tempo closer, “In Your Skin”, is quite good and ends the record on a high note.

The “deluxe” version features a second disc with 4 extra songs that were probably not deemed strong enough to make the original release. I despise this shameless tactic of milking fans for more of their money while being wasteful in making an entire second CD to hold a paltry 4 tracks that would easily fit on the main release. Even worse is that the only track on the deluxe version worth hearing more than once is “Crash and Burn”.

In short, “Smoke & Mirrors” is another solid, by-the-book effort from Lifehouse, a band that is consistent but opening themselves to criticism that too many of their albums all sound alike. The ‘deluxe’ version is not worth the extra money – curse the record labels that engage in this greedy and wasteful practice!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 11, 12

Lifehouse on MySpace. Official site.