Home > Miscellaneous, Music, Reviews > 30,000 more troops won’t help this war…

30,000 more troops won’t help this war…

30 Seconds to Mars
This Is War
Virgin/EMI
2009

“War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”

– Thomas Mann

After the incredible success of 30 Seconds to Mars’ sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie, actor/musician Jared Leto could have easily been at peace. Recognizable actor, millions of records sold — what’s not to like?

Instead, he and his band turn to songs about religion and war. Maybe it’s because 30 Seconds to Mars went through a lengthy, ugly battle with their label (ultimately settling and re-signing). Or maybe what really set them off was that A Beautiful Lie simply didn’t deserve its success, especially after their boring self-titled debut.  There were a few emo, radio-friendly singles. And that was it.

Four years later, the band gives us This Is War. Buzz had built up around the album, thanks to the inclusion of their fans (both singing as a choir on the record and as 2,000 different album covers) and that lengthy break. So I had high expectations that 30 Seconds to Mars could release a decent, complete, listenable album.

And amazingly, those high expectations weren’t shot immediately.

The first four songs are enjoyable. “Escape” opens with fans singing somewhat dramatically over an atmospheric texture. “Night of the Hunter” has some woman speaking in French (the chick from Lost?) and features Leto’s best vocals on the album (that was difficult to write, keep reading). Lead single “Kings and Queens” is spacey and U2-ish, with lyrics about broken promises and a lesser society. And then the title track annoyingly opens with fans screaming, features a terrible bridge, and somehow ends up being the best thing on the album.

If only it ended there.

Good luck getting through this thing. Two of the last eight songs (“100 Suns” and “Vox Populi”) aren’t really worth a listen. “Search and Destroy” and “Alibi” build up to absolutely nothing. “Stranger in a Strange Land” features electronic drum beats and sounds like a poor Radiohead impression — that lasts for seven minutes.

Besides never holding back on his soaring, dramatic, and mostly painful vocals, Leto bragged to MTV back in April that, “The longest song on there is, like, eight minutes. The shortest, probably five. … I don’t think we have one under five, that’s for sure.”

Unfortunately, he wasn’t kidding. By the time album closer “L490” tries to tie everything back to the start, you won’t remember the beginning. “Hurricane,” the most interesting track on the last two-thirds of the album, has its moments but lasts six minutes with more of the fan choir in the background.

I’ll admit 30 Seconds to Mars’ effort is far from cowardly. The effort is obviously here, even if there’s very little payoff. But like all wars, this one is a mess.

3/10

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