Thirty Seconds To Mars have returned with their latest album – AMERICA. But will Jared Leto’s project help cement his current status as the USA’s favourite actor/musician or is he juggling too much?
Let it go on record that I’m usually a pretty big fan of Thirty Seconds to Mars. “The Kill” is one of my most drunkenly sung tunes in my repertoire, even if I can’t reach Leto’s range with any form of accuracy.
As such, it pains me to feel just as disappointed as I do.
Thirty Seconds to Mars were never labelled as something innovative or groundbreaking; there was never anything hugely unique about them (with the possible exception of Jared Leto himself not actually aging). However, they were always a fairly solid stalwart in the “arena rock” world. Leaning ever so slightly ’emo’ from the wailing vocals and throwing in plenty of simple drums with overdriven guitars – it was a simple but successful recipe.
However, this simple recipe has had too many extra, overused ingredients thrown into the pot.
Leto’s vocal ability has been massively diluted with the use of autotune, detracting from his natural vocal ability as you hear his voice stagger as opposed to slide through the octaves. This however, pales in comparison to the sheer volume of EDM effects that seem to be plaguing many modern rock groups as they bid to climb the more popular charts.
“Walk On Water” opens the album and it may as well be on an Imagine Dragons album, it sounds next to nothing like the band ever have before – and not in a good way – with agitating hums and backing vocals underlining shallow and contrived lyrics about the current political landscape of the USA. The bass guitar is lost amongst the throbs of false bass tones in a bid to satisfy the electronic spectrum. “Rescue Me” takes more of these electronic notes as even the opening guitar riff sounds simulated before it disappears to be overtaken by Deadmau5 EDM tones. As it happens, I’m still a massive fan of Deadmau5 – I just don’t want to find his hand around the shoulders of rock groups I listen to.
“Great Wide Open” tries really hard to return ever so slightly to the rock roots of the band but every time you hear the autotune adjust the vocal pitch you’re rudely jolted back. The song attempted to emulate previous hit, “The Edge” and instead, fell straight off it. Obviously, I’ve had to stop and ask myself if I’m being biased from my expectations of what the band would produce, and could the album stand on its own merits as a pop album as opposed to rock.
It still probably couldn’t.
The album feels unnatural and this comes across too strongly, even on collaborative track “Love Is Madness” (featuring Halsey), it still can’t quite be the EDM-pop track that it’s so trying to be. Leto is at heart, an excellent emo-pop/rock vocalist and his tone simply can’t sound at home here. The band of course, are not used to this genre and the attempts to retain their old sound and ‘enhance’ it with the current trends just doesn’t settle. For another excellent example of this is “Dawn Will Rise” – shot through with the ever (read; currently) popular theme of trap beats. The song simply feels lost and as though it’s cramming in current popularity like a teenager with hashtags (actually something that may as well feature on the album cover).
Arguably, the best track on the album is a mostly acoustic song that sees very little input from Jared and instead, hands the control to his brother, Shannon. To be the best track on a frankly dull album isn’t exactly a fantastic compliment – but it’s something.
As the album ends we’re left with “Live Like a Dream”, which may as well just be “Walk On Water” again; so I’m just going to run right past that one and leaves us with “Rider”. Holding out hope for the last track to be reminiscent of the band’s previous work isn’t worth the 40 or so minutes before it.
Unfortunately there’s not much to redeem this album – we’re close to a third of the way through the year and I’m pretty sure we’ve got a strong contender for, if not the worst rock album of the year, then definitely the most boring.
Author, Steve, Chiswick store