The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Searching for Lifehouse: Who they Were is not Who We Are

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

Image I think Lifehouse as a band are schizophrenic. Which I mean as a compliment. On their records so far they always chose to show only one of their two personalities (rock or pop) and ultimately always left someone displeased. But the new album Who We Are intensifies their schizophrenic condition and they can’t keep both Lifehouse personas from coming out to play. Which is a blessing.

Bear with me on the analogy here: I mean, honestly, you release a self-titled album, Lifehouse, in 2005, and it’s pop-y, smooth, melodic and almost boy band material. And then two years later, in 2007, you release an album called Who We Are and it’s edgy , rock-y, eerily haunting and still melodic. But wait, I thought you guys were Lifehouse and therefore the album called Lifehouse was supposed to be who you are, but now Who You Are is who you are? I am confused.

Let me elucidate my own mind.

When Lifehouse started out with No Name Face they sounded a little rough, rocking, packed with electric guitars and took the world by storm with Hanging By A Moment. No Name Face went double platinum. We remember those good days and back then we all feared the notorious sophomore album. You usually expect a band to mess up on it and not repeat the previous success. But wait, Lifehouse’s sophomore album was Stanley Climbfall and it was a masterpiece. It wasn’t as rough around the edges as No Name Face anymore, but the melodies in Jason Wade’s songs had evolved and it featured the evergreen “Spin” and the fan favorite “Take Me Away”. Okay, Stanley Climbfall didn’t go double platinum as No Name Face before, but it did reach #7 on the Billboard Album charts and I hold it in high esteem. More importantly though, it sounded like Lifehouse had found their trademark style: Mixing melodies with a little rock, but never too much rock to displease the girls and never too much melody to displease the boys either.

And then the self-titled album happened. Everybody knows the No. 1 single “You and Me” and this song is basically the epitome of what Lifehouse (the album) was. It was so poppy and smooth you could just picture the girls swooning at every little sound coming out of Jason Wade’s admittedly beautiful mouth. But the sound couldn’t have been much for the boys. I was wondering what had happened to the electric guitars from Stanley Climbfall and the edge Lifehouse used to have. But now I get it. Lifehouse (the album) was a practice exercise for Wade, a playground to let all the beautiful melodies in his head loose so they could run off and find themselves a riff play buddy to return with for Who We Are.

What do I mean? You want me to get to the review already? Alright, you asked for it.

Who We Are starts off with the awesomely cool and rocking “Disarray”. It is a classic Jason Wade song. It has the chorus you wanna sing along to and the lyrics to make you go “yes, exactly!”. I heard this song and I knew I had a winner with the new album. Lifehouse were back to their Stanley Climbfall sound.

Track two is the new single “First Time”, which, while not as awesome as “Disarray”, is a solid pick for a single. It gains appeal with repeating though and I sense a hit here a la “Spin” or “Hanging By A Moment”. It definitely has drive. And it’s about being in love, we love songs about being in love.

“Whatever It Takes”, track three, is this album’s “You and Me” with an edge, and my guess for single number two. It channels some serious power ballad energy. Expect this one to accompany you on a date later this summer (and guys, it will get your girls to put out, I promise).

Track four finally is the eponymous track “Who We Are”, explaining why everything we do and go through makes us the people we are, it’s all part of life. A message often sung, but Jason’s soothing baritone makes it still nice to listen to. Too bad the song lending the album its title isn’t the strongest one off it.

Before we get to that one, we stumble over “Broken”. It reminds me of “Trying” off No Name Face and it is wonderfully gloomy. I am also a fan of the meter and the rhyme scheme, that’s the poet in me. If “Whatever It Takes” doesn’t get to be single number two, my money is on “Broken”. I can imagine it working beautifully as a soundtrack to an emotional scene of a summer romance movie.

But now on to the strongest and yet oddest song, “The Joke”. It doesn’t sound like anything else we have heard from Lifehouse before; it has a snappy beat, a few rhythmical changes and very clever lyrics. I applaud Jason Wade’s ingenuity here and hope this one gets to be a single, but as it mostly is with the odd little song found on albums, it becomes a favorite among fans, but is never put out onto the general market.

I gotta admit it, the quality does slide towards the Lifehouse sound more for the next few songs. Which is fine for me and all the Wade-loving girls out there, but we might lose some of the boys along the way. Maybe we can reconcile in the end.

“Easier To Be” follows “You and Me” yet again, even though it is not as poppy it is definitely a song you want to and will sing along with the first time you hear it and it won’t leave you alone for days. Now, some call that hit potential, but I know some people who are gonna be so annoyed to have this one stuck in their heads.

“Make Me Over” displays Wade’s beautiful falsetto voice along with his baritone, but it takes some time before it really takes off and even then it is not as powerful as it could be. I can’t put my finger on it, but somehow it lacks some oomph, if you catch my drift.

“Mesmerized” passes you by as if you had been mesmerized by…well, something else, but not the song. I think this is the weakest song off the album. But hope is nigh. There are three more songs left on Who We Are and they offer promised reconciliation.

“Bridges” definitely echoes some “Hanging By A Moment”, it’s upbeat and yet dejected and when Jason Wade talks about burning all the bridges, who are we not to comply and go with him? I follow him through this track, because he sounds like he means it.

“Learn You Inside Out” features the marvelous return of that other instrument besides the guitar Wade plays so well, the piano. In my book one of the gentlest, most passionate and soothing love songs to come my way in a long time filled with wonder, endearment and pain all the same.

And the album ends on an off-key, memorable, enchanting note with “Storm”. This is one of those songs that can only be the last song on an album and will never ever make it as a hit, but leaves you oddly enthralled as it fades out and your room fills with silence. So enthralled you wanna push “play” again. “Storm” starts out with simply Jason Wade’s bone-chilling voice, sounding lost in a storm, how appropriate. The piano softly mingles in and carries you away on the wave of hope he sings about. You never want this song to end, you want to stay lost in the atmosphere it creates and that to me is the perfect song.

I think Lifehouse tried to define their sound with Lifehouse, but then realized they needed to give it another shot, they hadn’t shown all their sides yet. On Who We Are they finally manage to get it all together, the melodies, the beats, the little roughness in Wade’s voice and the definition of what real good Lifehouse should sound like. Who We Are is who they are. If you don’t like this one, Lifehouse has never been for you and probably never will be.