Review: Thirty Seconds To Mars Redefine Pretentiousness on ‘Love, Lust, Faith And Dreams’
When does the pomposity of a band eclipse their music and become the single most entertaining thing about them? Take Thirty Seconds To Mars, a band that has long boxed with overblown pretentiousness. Listening to their new album Love, Lust, Faith And Dreams, two things become clear. One, the only entertaining part of this travesty is picking apart its pretention. Two, Thirty Seconds To Mars have zero understanding how pompous they come across.
No less staggering than Mount Rushmore or what lies at the deepest parts of the ocean is how Thirty Seconds To Mars are on their fourth album and that two of those records have gone platinum. Seriously? Are there that many My So Called Life fans out there desperate to keep their dreams of dating Jordan Catalano alive? Regardless, the pretention that has mounted through three records comes to full realization on Love, Lust Faith And Dreams. The albums opens, with a woman whispering “love” right before horns start blowing in a mash up between the opening credits of the Shining and the worst ska song ever. Jared Leto coos, “I will save you from yourself. Time will change everything about this Hell”. The name of this two-minute opus to pretention in rock? “Birth.” I know, it’s hard not to dry heave.
Following up “Birth” is “Conquistador,” a tune whose riff owes more than a little to Marilyn Manson’s “Fight Song.” The riff drops out entirely so we can be sure to hear more of Leto’s magical vocals e.g. “This is a fight to the death. Our Holy War, a new romance, a Trojan whore.” I’m sure these lyrics seem deep to the average angst ridden teen, but to anybody else it’s just a jumble of important sounding terms thrown together to give the illusion of depth. What’s worse is the backing vocals rip off Queen’s “We Will Rock You” to the point I’m sure Freddy Mercury is spinning in his grave.
Musically nothing varies much from song to song other than. The most fun you’ll have is listening to Jared Leto bring self-importance to a new level. On the keyboard driven dancey jam “Up In The Air” Leto croons, “Up in the air, fucked up on life, all of the laws are broken, loves that I’ve sacrificed.” Really? Christ, Leto’s fake band on My So Called Life was better than this. With “The Race,” Leto advises us that, “Love is a dangerous game to play. Hearts are made for breaking and for pain”. Somebody get me some eye shadow and a Jack Skellington hoodie, I’m about to get all weepy.
“City Of Angels” is one of my favorites in this salad of pretentious delights. Thirty Seconds To Mars stretch their ballad muscles here, which really means there’s very little music playing when Leto begins his narrative about the quite desperation of Los Angeles. Oh good, another song about the melancholy beneath the glitz and glamour of LA. It’s been forty minutes since one of these songs came out, it’s about time we were served another. Who better to slice up the bitterness of being young and beautiful in LA than Leto, who is both. Attempting “atmosphere” with clunky piano, synths and random drum strikes, Leto opens his notebook and allows more winning words to escape. For example, “Lost in the city of angels. Down in the comfort of strangers. I found myself in the land of a billion lights”. Wow, I understand Los Angeles on a much deeper level now.
On and on it goes. The pomposity of this album is grand, the amount of self-importance so epic, it slowly becomes entertaining. Think of Love, Lust, Faith And Dreams as a drinking game. Anytime a song repeats itself you, take a shot. Whenever Jared Leto sings a pretentious and vapid lyric, you take a shot. You should be plotzed halfway through the album.
“End Of All Days” is another ballad, this time with Leto pouring his soul over piano. Imagine Radiohead’s “Street Spirit” crashing into Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” that’s what’s happening here musically. Lyrically we get “the serpents are singing a song that’s meant to save.” “Pyres Of Varanasi” is an instrumental of sorts, one that sounds largely like a chase scene from a movie about a gang of hackers trying to take down the Government in a dystopian future.
I could continue dissecting this album but what’s the point? The musical blueprint rarely varies from a big intro that moves into low music allowing Leto to show how wounded he is. “Bright Lights Big City” copies this structure but adds a backing guitar line that comes dangerously close to U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name.” Just when you think Jared Leto can’t outdo himself with pretentiousness, he delivers a line like “Bright lights big city, she dreams of love. Bright lights big city he lives to run.” I have to wonder how many bottles of red wine were open during the recording of this and how many candles lit. I’d also like to see Leto’s serious scarf collection, because you know he has one.
Thirty Seconds To Mars is dress up rock, music much more invested in posing and posturing than anything else. It’s no surprise the two masterminds here, Jared Leto and his brother Shannon, are both actors as well as rock stars. Nothing happening in this album is the least bit sincere, even the press photos show these guys perfectly coifed and smoldering for the camera. The music is sometimes just an amalgam of things done before and at other times a complete rip off. Leto’s lyrics are laughable, almost to the point that I wish he were kidding. If Thirty Seconds To Mars revealed themselves as a big joke on rock stardom, they’d be the most ingenious things since Monty Python. Sadly, they’re serious and that’s horrifying.
I can’t imagine fans of this music are more diverse than teenagers to girls in their early twenties still hoping to find a pretty boy to give them an epic romance. Outside of that people should know better. I usually feel a twinge of sadness when people loathe me simply for a band review. Not here. If you hate me because you think Thirty Seconds To Mars has real value, I welcome your hatred. Those who find musical impact in Thirty Seconds To Mars are tantamount to people in the fashion world that use phrases like “Those boots are important”.
30 Seconds to Mars: Live at the KROQ Weenie Roast; May 18, 2013