No Name Face
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/10/2007
For a brief time, Lifehouse was a big name on the Christian music/modern rock circuit when "Hanging By A Moment" hit the charts and stayed there. It was an inescapable song that did everything right: hooks, great vocals, and lyrics that sounded meaningful yet vague.
This sort of lyrical anonymity has been key to post-grunge success, and Lifehouse fits on the shelf right next to Creed and Live. All are pseudo-spiritual bands that follow the blueprint apparently laid out by Pearl Jam's debut, though none of these bands have a sense of humor or self-deprecation. Grunge never meant to change the world; it was too unassuming for its success and never embraced the spotlight the way Scott Stapp did.
It may seem, then, that the success of "Hanging By A Moment" was a fluke, but seven years after its debut the song still is a perfect pop/rock tune with somewhat uplifting lyrics. If Lifehouse is indeed a Christian band -- they seem to be, but it's never explicit, which is a point in their favor -- the lyrics are about waiting for God's love, and if not it's a good love song.
The rest of No Name Face is like a tour through grunge hall of fame, as Lifehouse never really finds their own sound or style, resulting in a listen that's average at best. Actually, the frustration comes when one listens to the five really good songs here and the attempts the rest, which are as forgettable as everything you learned in geometry class.
However, those five make this worth the price of admission. Aside from "Hanging," the band finds a Smashing Pumpkins groove on "Only One" recalling that band's glory days. Jason Wade turns in a moody, emotional vocal performance on "Breathing," which is a tad overproduced but long on the sort of emotive post-grunge that Creed did so well, when it got its head out of its ass.
The first of two stunners are "Somebody Else's Song," which chugs along nicely in the verses until Wade segues into the chorus of "Feeling like I'm chasing / like I'm facing myself alone / I've got somebody else's thoughts in my head / I want some of my own," emphasizing the last line by raising his voice an octave each time. A guitar solo is even included, the bow tie on a downcast but compelling package.
Finally, the other stunner is the closing "Everybody," which is pretty much the most Christian song on here, as it uses many of the verses found in standard modern worship songs. It's sort of a post-grunge hymn, set to light strings and a gentle acoustic guitar for a few minutes before the electric guitars come in and the lyrics erupt. If you're a religious person or just a rock fan, the song will move you, with words like "You are the strength that keeps me walking / you are the hope that keeps me trusting / you are the life to my soul / you are my purpose, you are everything." It is quite beautiful, for a rock song.
It's also frustrating to know that Lifehouse can pull off songs like that but then succumbs to generi-grunge for at least half of the disc ("Sick Cycle Carousel," "Trying," "Quasimodo"). This is a trend that would continue for the rest of the band's career, which appears to be continuing with a new album due in 2007. And certainly, five good songs out of 11 does not a great listen make.
But the handful of times this disc does work make it worth hearing at least once -- that is, if corporate pseudo-Christian post-grunge is your thing. If not, well, you may like parts of it anyway. It's just a shame Lifehouse didn't bring the same spirit to the whole project as it did to the standouts.