Lifehouse ended up spending a year recording upwards of thirty-five tracks before settling on the twelve songs that make up Smoke & Mirrors (many of the rest will be included on a deluxe edition). The record is loosely split between rock tracks meant to capture the feel of seeing Lifehouse live, and extremely catchy, sing-along pop songs. “That’s where the title of the album comes in,” Jason explains. “It’s about the record being half live and half studio.”
The band also worked with American Idol alum Chris Daughtry, whom Jason met and became friends with on the road. “I haven’t done much co-writing in the past and I’m a bit leery of it,” the singer admits. “You can end up with a song that is not good and just wish you had that day of your life back (laughs) however, I went over to Chris’s place in LA and within an hour we had ‘Had Enough.'” The song, to which Daughtry contributes vocals and Richard Marx also co-wrote; is a blistering, anthemic example of the kind of music that made Lifehouse fans fall in love with the band in the first place. It belongs alongside the more traditional rock tracks on Smoke & Mirrors like “Nerve Damage” and “Wrecking Ball” (bassist Soderberg’s first lead vocal with the band), songs that capture the unparalleled feel of a Lifehouse show.
“All In” – Jason Wade always seems to be rushing towards someone or something and this song is no different. The only problem is that its not memorable except when you are listening. The best songs are memorable long after you’ve stopped listening.
“Nerve Damage” – Not the same sound you’ve come to expect from Lifehouse. It’s a bit rougher around the edges and actually reminds me a bit of Silverchair, what ever happend to them?
“Had Enough” – Wade often sounds like he is singing through gritted teeth and pushing really hard to sound like the grunge bands from yesteryear. And that is when he loses me.
“Halfway Gone” – Lifehouse is at their best when they sound like Lifehouse. That doesn’t seem to make sense.. but when you listen to this song it makes total sense.
“It Is What It Is” – Wade always seems lovelorn, the difference here is that he sounds a bit more emotional and raw. It seems to fit him better.
“From Where You Are” – This doesn’t have the raw emotions. Instead it sounds like Wade is going through the motions.
“Smoke & Mirrors” – This sounds like it could be a country song. Wade actually sounds like John Mellencamp. It’s funny, he sounds at his best right here. It’s a shame it’s not a great song.
“Falling In” – This is definitely a track that you could see being played at a high school dance and lots of young couples dedicating as “their song.”
“Wrecking Ball” – This is all wrong. Sounds cookie cutter.
“Here Tomorrow Gone Today” – This style of song doesn’t fit Lifehouse at all. Muse could get away with it, but Wade just doesn’t have the presence.
“By Your Side” – Skip it.
“In Your Skin” – You can bail on this one too.
At some point Wade has to find himself. This is the same thing I said about them 10 years ago, or whenver their first album came out. After hearing “Smoke & Mirrors” it seems there is hope. If Wade started to go the direction of having a more folksy, raw vocal rather than constantly trying to do that gritty singing like the grunge bands he’d be much more interesting. Instead everything is average at best.