Summary: The momentum is there and if 30 Seconds to Mars could catch it at the right time, this could be the next big thing.
First off, let’s get the whole actor-wannabe-musician thing out of the way. Yes, Jordan Catalano from My So Called Life or better yet that kid that got his “Angel Face” smashed in by Tyler Durden, is indeed the front man of 30 Seconds to Mars. The actor/singer takes breaks from the day job to play rock star with his band mates and has done so since 2002 when they released their impressive but highly ignored self-titled debut. Actors turned musicians just don’t have as much credibility as musicians turned actors, and Jared Leto has had to overcome his own name before 30 Seconds to Mars can be fully recognized. An actor’s brand may be the spark that gets a band noticed, but at the same time, it can create a bigger hurdle to clear. Not even “Anti-Hollywood” Johnny Depp has been able to get P known as anything else than the first letter of my name.
So now that we have unloaded some of the baggage…30 Seconds to Mars is clearly a band to be reckoned with. Their latest, A Beautiful Lie is a leaner meaner step up from their spastic debut and begs to be front and center. 30 Seconds is deserving of their destined 15 minutes and should be on your to do list.
Their self-titled debut had so much fat that it weighed an otherwise solid effort by this up and coming band. You could almost hear it in Jared Leto’s voice as he, at times, tries too hard to shed his celebrity skin and prove that he really can rock it out with the big boys. A Beautiful Lie trims some of the fat and brings forth a more composed and secure singer comfortable in his own skin. With his brother Shannon behind the drums, Matt Wachter on the Bass and Tomo Milicivitch’s guitar work, 30 Seconds to Mars hopes to rocket to stardom and cement their place in the music landscape.
The album’s lead off and current single, “Attack” is the best representation of what this band can do. It’s not the music but the voice that really grabs your attention. It begins with an echo-y synthesized guitar riff as Leto’s voice slips in only to pause the music so that he can pop a vein in his neck as he yelps, “AND I AM FINALLY FREE!” It’s an aggressive breakup song “like a back that hides a knife,” and it’ll leave her in the dust.
Notables like “The Kill,” “Was it a Dream” and “From Yesterday” keep the pity party going and are radio friendly ditties that could surely get constant airplay. Just as the whole album is, they are not extraordinary, but do prove that this is a band on the move.
One of the more intriguing numbers is “A Modern Myth.” It slows the pace of the album quite nicely, but once “the secret it out,” it waves goodbye and goes silent for an eternity. Once the eyeliner has been reapplied, the boys reappear with what seems like a hidden track in the middle of the album! You think the record is over until you notice that there are still two more songs on the play list. Silence is golden but not when it randomly breaks up an album and causes more annoyance than anything else.
Instead of redemption, 30 Seconds ends on the lowest of low notes. I’ve never been a big fan of remakes, especially with tracks that are fairly new. Joss Stone did it with style and grace with her remake of The White Stripes’, “Fell in Love with a Girl” and the Postal Service created one of the best remakes ever covering Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds.” Unfortunately, Leto and the bunch neglected to take notes and missed a valuable lessen: “A remake is not a redo. Add some originality that is a reflection of you and the song will take on a whole new life.” 30 Seconds’ cover of Bjork’s “Hunter” is just painful and you begin to twitch when Leto mismatches his voice over Bjork’s recognizable thump in percussions. Only Bjork can do Bjork and 30 Seconds To Mars let us all down with this one.
A Beautiful Lie really is a solid album full of hard-edged aggression over soaring melodies. Leto’s talent does extend beyond the big screen and a transition from film to stage might not be a bad thing. The momentum is there, and if 30 Seconds to Mars could catch it at the right time, this could be the next big thing. Just think twice about doing another remake.