Ever since I caught his performance in Requiem For a Dream, I felt a certain amount of indifference towards Jared Leto, so when he decided to start a rock-band, I was curious. Not knowing fully that he’d decided to pursue music at the same time he was planting his acting roots, it seemed like an interesting twist. When 30 Seconds to Mars came out and I heard “Capricorn” for the first time, I was intrigued by the name, and the music wasn’t half-bad either.
Now it’s 2013 and I’m sure where experimentation has been the leading drive for the band’s work, I’m quite certain that this latest album is driving me away from their music entirely.
I’ll give them props for seeming like a decent “under-the-radar” band back in ’98, their sound was very much different from what I’d heard a lot on the radio at the time, and even when it did play on the radio (all of the one time that I can remember), I still enjoyed their music, and so when receiving the album as a gift, I was all the more elated to listen to a band that sort of went in the “space rock” direction, feeling very sci-fi with their lyrics and trying to accomplish their own brand of sound. Their first, self-titled CD was enjoyable, front to back, so it was easy to think of myself as a fan of their sound.
When A Beautiful Lie came out in August of 2005 during my mid-college term, I was less interested in the album in its entirety, picking and choosing my favorite tracks. It wasn’t all bad, but most of it wasn’t enjoyable. “Was It a Dream”, “From Yesterday” and “The Kill” were tracks I listened to the most, and a lot of people seemed to agree that their switch to a more “emo styling” wasn’t a great choice. Jared seemed to want to forget they’d ever made their first record and all I could think was that the first record was the one I liked the most.
Fast forward to December 2009 and after going through a bunch of crap with Virgin over a contractual dispute, we finally get a third album, This Is War, and I was once again left with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it felt like there was a decent mix of old and new here, but the mix was muddled in some kind of weird, spiritual transcendence that I wasn’t fully invested in, whether it was some underlying pretention I felt bleeding through or possibly because of dwindling interest in the band at that point. “Stranger In A Strange Land” is still a beautiful track to me and I enjoyed several others, like “Hurricane” and “Night of the Hunter”, but I felt like I was window shopping within their album, once again.
Hitting in March of 2013, the band decided it’d be a great idea to launch their next single up with the Space X CRS-2, where their latest single, Up In The Air, would be first broadcast from the station. Sure it was an entertaining move, and I will say that I liked that particular track, but after looking up the music video, my enjoyment was tinged with a single thought: Jared Leto is full of himself. Their new album, dubbed LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS only compounds this thought.
Sure, I’ll get flack for saying that, but I can NOT un-think this. The video to accompany it felt so pretentious, like an art-house film gone wrong, and while we covered this, it bears repeating. Having watched it all the way through, I waited for it to go somewhere, but was left with the question, why is this a thing? My heart is kind of sinking just thinking of that video, and listening to the song itself, I’m somewhere between angry and confused. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not part of the audience that Leto is targeting anymore, for better or for worse. Sure, I love art, and there’s something to be said about their attempt as creating it, but sometimes you can try too hard and come out with very little substance. I can give their lyrical sensibilities a “thumbs up” for creativity and trying to inject philosophy into the core of each song, but there’s a difference between trying to be thought-provoking for the sake of thought, and screaming in someone’s ear so they’ll think about things. Smart things. Grand things. It doesn’t really work here.
Between the generic, synthesized horn kicks in the song “Birth”, and the weird use of Inception punches in “Pyres Of Varanasi”, it’s a strange mess that feels a little undercooked. In fact, “Pyres of Varanasi” is the worst track on the album, following “Birth” and “Conquistador”, with Leto pretending he’s pulling off some kind of middle-eastern thing. Think the vocals provided by Cheb Mami from Sting’s Desert Rose.
To bring some positive light on this, God help me if I can think of a song that paints Los Angeles in a decent, nostalgic light that “City Of Angels” does – granted, I’m not from there. “The Race” isn’t half- bad either, playing off their more elaborate sound from This Is War, but staying within familiar territory, and I do find some enjoyment in it. Thus far, “Up In The Air” has been the strongest track, given the unappealing nature of the rest of the album.
As for the other tracks, well, I can’t say I know what “End of All Days” is trying to say that Tool’s “Ænema” or A Perfect Circle’s “Judith” didn’t already say to me back when I first heard them. It’s very much an attempt on 30 Seconds To Mars to incorporate a very blues-inspired sound. Not a new direction, considering the kind of Prog Rock they’re offering in general, but something to note.
If I had anything to say about this album, it is that it’s strange. I don’t know where 30STM is going, and I don’t honestly know if it’s anywhere that anyone wants to be. Sure, they’re trying to be different, and that’s fine. Maybe I’m just not weird, artsy, or out there enough to fully appreciate what they’re orchestrating and perhaps that’s what it’s going to be like from now on. Pick and choose what you like from the album, because that’s what I’ve been doing since their second.