Love Lust Faith + Dreams
Thirty Seconds To Mars
44:50 min • EMI / Virgin • May 17, 2013
Little Bastard reviews
Ever since he picked up an acoustic guitar and crooned in the general direction of Claire Danes in My So Called Life when I was 12, Jared Leto had always been my ideal band frontman. So when his band Thirty Seconds To Mars started to break out in 2005 I was more than curious to see what he’d be like. Their self-titled first album was a brilliant, pop-driven grunge rock, and since then they’ve evolved through My Chemical Romance style pop-emo, to grand stadium rock, and now dance? New album Love Lust Faith + Dreams is a concept album, dealing with the aforementioned subjects, giving each one its own section (Lust obviously bring the longest) but is it more style obver substance?
The album opens with a female voice introducing the first section, Love, as Leto purs,
I will rescue you from yourself –
over gothic instrumentation that heavily reminds me of Sopor Aeternus And The Ensemble Of Shadows (look her up, bizarrely enchanting). As though from nowhere, a distorted electro bass line kicks in, so hard my mouth actually fell open! (I was brushing my teeth at the time, it was very inconvenient.) Stunning. Next up is ‘Conquistador’ and, with its monster guitar riff and glam rock stomp, is one of the best rock songs I’ve heard all year. It’s a call to arms, as we hear Jared’s throaty wail of,
This is a fight to the death –
my arms are up in the air and my head is flinging from side to side, up and down, my feet are stomping … successful so far, I feel. Then our female guide informs us we’re into Lust (Love was pretty short) and first single ‘Up In The Air’ drops, and it feels every bit as grand as its high art 8 minute promo video. The band launched the single, and indeed this new chapter in their lives, by sending a copy of ‘Up In The Air’ into space, and having an astronaught spin it in zero gravity (what is it with pop stars and space at the moment?) which is a suitably epic action for such an anthem of a song. The lyric of,
I’ll wrap my hands around your neck so tight with love –
is sung with a level of emotion and desperation that it manages to sound as beautiful as it does creepy. Leto’s never been a stranger to S&M in his work (the beautiful ‘Hurricane’ video, directed by him as his alter ego Bartholomew Gubbins, was so full of it most of it got edited out in the broadcastable version) and this is no exception, his version of lust obviously having a heavy element of violence and emotion wrapped around it. My kind of guy. The music is pulsing, the chorus is singalong, and the mood is dark, completely offsetting the heavy dance elements trust upon us, and I think it’s bloody brilliant.
‘City Of Angels’ is a much older song than the rest of the album, which Leto originally wrote on his acoustic guitar but could never quite get to work, and it’s now been transformed into an almost trance like ballad, with pounding tribal drums from Jared’s brother Shannon. Its a great “lighters up” moment, made slightly less saccharin by the fact that we all know about Jared’s life as a young actor, so we know the tale of a 17 year old being burned by LA is all true.
‘The Race’ pushes the electronic element further, starting out as a dance track that drops into a mid-tempo sprawling pop-rock song, and then builds to high electronica again. ‘End Of Days’ is a ballad with crunchy drums and bass, with more S&M symbolism,
I’ll punish you with pleasure and pleasure you with pain –
repeats Leto as the track fades out to bleeps, and we are launched into strings and heavy dance bass, as ‘Pyres Of Varanasi’ transports us from Lust to Faith, and the singalong ‘Bright Lights’, followed by the equally anthematic ‘Do Or Die’. Interlude ‘Converge’ pushes all my World Music buttons, before spinning me through to ‘Dreams’, the last section, and the epic ballad ‘Northern Lights’, in which Leto goes from growling like Marilyn Manson to his signature wail, over more heavy electronic bass and strings. Closing ballad ‘Depuis Le Debut’ comes on like ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails, all drunk and bluesey before hitting us with industrial electronica and strings, and then taking us down to the creepy music box that closes the album, making Swan Lake sound far more unsettling than I’ve ever heard it before.
Jared has recently described Thirty Seconds To Mars as an art project rather than a band, and from their high art videos to their well thought out concepts for their records, even down to them using two seperate Damien Hirst paintings in the artwork for this album, Thirty Seconds To Mars take me back to a time when art and music weren’t separate, when albums were entire concepts, instead of a rush-released quick-buck for a corporate record company. It’s bands like Thirty Seconds To Mars that will keep the art and music divide closed, when everything we’re fed on a daily basis is trying to widen it. In many ways it does feel like a continuation from This Is War, the band’s last album, only maybe if they’d bashed it with a synthesiser … it’s definitely not the sound of a band standing still and resting on their laurels, but its not a massive progression either. Almost like the Coldplay of alternative rock (if I could please use that as a positive) Jared and his band members have become the antithisis of modern stadium rock, and Love Lust Faith + Dreams is an album full of killer pop hooks, flawless production and single after single, yet enough time has been spent on the creation of the album that it at no time does the concept fall apart. In a society where pop is rock’s enemy, more so now than it has ever been, it’s quite brave for a band to make an album that embraces such a modern, polished sound. Ok, so maybe it could be seen to some as the final nail in the sell-out coffin … as though Jared and the boys have lost sight of who they were and become an unrecognisable epic stadium band, but if they continue to churn out songs of this calibre I don’t care. My only wish now is that I was seeing them live this summer, so that I could scream along to these hooks as loud as I want, without fear of an ASBO.