Played-Out Prom-Pop Rendered Pointless

    Smoke and Mirrors

    Lifehouse

    Geffen

    The last time anyone cared about Lifehouse, they were playing at a high school prom, courtesy of a JC Penney contest. Apparently releasing a couple of new albums was the next logical step for the Christian rock band from Malibu, Calif.

    Judging from the genuine, though futile, effort Smoke and Mirrors — their first release in almost three years — one can’t help but want to pat the boys on the back just for trying.

    Lifehouse spends the duration of Mirrors mimicking Nickelback’s manufactured growling. Songs like lead single “Halfway Gone” copy a Kings of Leon vocal melody, but all attempts at mirroring a more popular band, make their music repetitive and meaningless. Even an appearance by Chris Daughtry on “Had Enough,” can’t save them; the songs are cut and dry, ready for radio — but good for little else. You’d never guess they spent over a year in the studio producing the record.

    Instead of slow-dance ready waltzes like “You and Me” and “Hanging by a Moment,” we get trite prose: “Cause I’m halfway gone and I’m on my way/ And I’m feeling, feelin’ feelin’ this way.” While the single plays over drum rhythms and call-and-response vocals, apparently the band members weren’t feelin’ much of anything when they wrote the tracks that follow.

    Anti-drunk-driving ballad “From Where You Are” starts out thoughtful with “I miss the years that were erased/ I miss the way the sunshine would light up your face” coated over a desolate piano melody, but never manages to pick up. The group attempts to unite rock balladry and spiritual beliefs, but the stale guitar and power chords never amp the songs enough, and after a while it feels like even lead singer Jason Wade has grown tired of singing his forlorn ballads.

    The group plows through one mess after another, making the added synths and passionate vocals less convincing as time wears on. It’s hard to knock a group that tries so hard to seem meaningful, but 12 tracks that sound like alternate versions of each other — occasionally varied by some drum backbeats and a few pounding guitar chords — can’t save the album.

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