When I choose my music, I am very clear about certain things. First of all, it has to at least be vaguely interesting – while hardcore music itself sounds like a ton of shit in places, it at least has an interesting history. Secondly, I have to feel like the musician who wrote it actually gave a shit about it; I’ve got to be able to recognise a passion of some kind in it. And finally, it doesn’t necessarily has to be recognised as ‘good’ because I know I listen to a ton of stuff lots of people would describe as ‘wank’, but it has to be honest. It has to know that it is a pile of wank when it is.
Then why the hell am I listening to the latest 30 Seconds To Mars album and enjoying it?
It’s not that I’ve disliked it on principle – while I may be jaded enough to look upon popular rock music with contempt, I always like to give it a chance before I toss it aside and piss on the remains. But I’ve always thought that 30 Seconds To Mars’ music is lazy. There’s nothing particularly innovative in it and they get by spectacularly on the basis that Jared Leto is an excessively good looking man. He also has a very impressive voice, and I’ve generally felt it to be wasted on their earlier albums because well… EVERY SONG SOUNDS EXACTLY THE SAME. I challenge you to listen to A Beautiful Lie and be easily able to tell the songs apart. For this point alone, I only listened to From Yesterday because it was a) the best of all the songs that sounded the same, b) it had a cool breakdown and I’m a sucker for that and finally, c) in the video, you get to see some torso. I am easily swayed by a pretty face and some smoking abs. But, back to the point about Jared being able to sing, he can! He’s a much better singer than most of the people in these bands the kids listen to these days, like Fall Out Boy (oh no, wait, they broke up), My Chemical Romance, Good Charlotte… Alright, the latter is me, but Jared Leto has got some pipes on him. They’re just not utilised very well. He does a bit of a screamy bit in places, he sings simple intervals and nothing particularly stands out. He’s the frontman because the band wouldn’t work if he wasn’t, essentially. The rest of the songs just drag on and on forever and ever with some wanky electronics and repeating the chorus over and over. That hasn’t changed in This Is War at all, but it’s more bearable for some reason, which I’ll try and figure out later. The truth is, only Midtown can get away with a song over five minutes which repeats the same phrase over and over for the majority of the song. Only Midtown.
But why exactly do I now like 30 Seconds To Mars? And I actually paid money for this new album as well. I guess that this might have something to do with it…
I suppose I am easily swayed by awesome hair. My mother earlier frowned in despair as I announced my wishes to bring home a man with a mohawk. My love of interesting hair probably explains why I kept listening to Fall Out Boy so long after their decency died. But, to give This Is War, the album itself, its dues, it’s actually just a much better album. Every song does sort of sound the same, but the passion that was lacking from the earlier albums has been found. That’s clear from the video to ‘Closer To The Edge’ – they’re finally showing that they give a shit. If they were before, it totally wasn’t obvious. Doing a video on an icecap to raise awareness doesn’t mean you care about your music. The singles are fantastic this time around; the first time I heard Kings And Queens, I had shivers. That massive vocal force was… interesting. Very interesting. It showed progression. And the video was cool too. Jared himself said that Kings And Queens has the optimism that the previous albums were lacking and as we all know, I like optimism. It’s music that’s got hope in it, but I guess Kings And Queens was something more; it was almost like a call to arms. And THAT is why the new 30 Seconds To Mars album has impressed me – because they’re on the offensive. It might not be aggressive music (although Stranger In A Strange Land is pretty intense, actually kind of filthy and definitely one of the best songs on the album), but they’ve got something to prove. I guess this is the proof that they aren’t just a pretty face (and sorry, but… it is just one pretty face). Featuring a song on Dragon Age: Origins is also going to get my attention quite a bit and ‘This Is War’ can be heard on the final credits of the game. It fits perfectly with everything the game’s about and I suppose it got in the way of my previous tirades. I legitimately couldn’t criticise a song that good, no matter how hard I tried. While I mentioned previously that the songs sounded the same, they at least sound the same in a good way – there’s a lot more experimentation with the synths, the songs are much tighter and while they might still be a bit too long, it doesn’t feel like a total drag by the end. There’s that optimism coming in again.
One thing that does get me a bit whiny is that it’s apparently a concept album. I can’t really string a story together in it. I guess it has a ‘concept’ – all of the songs are linked by a theme of ‘war’ and fighting for something in one way or another, but I like concept albums to have a story. At least they didn’t do a My Chemical Romance and try to have a story but fail miserably. I am also disappointed by the lack of Kanye West after hearing that the band were working with him on a song. Kanye West makes everything golden. Everything. Boys, you missed an opportunity.
I am actually pretty impressed by their touring schedule this year. The band are doing a massive seven leg tour and hitting up Europe three times. I completely underestimated their fanbase here because that is dedication. And watching some live videos on Youtube, I can kind of see why they’ve got as big a following as they have – they put on a good show. Mind you, I can say that about a lot of bands with mediocre music and irritating teenage fans, because that’s how they manage to stay alive. So while it doesn’t have much bearing on why I like the new album, it’s certainly given me something to think about. There’s also a fair amount of shirtlessness on stage. But seeing that, and also their street team has made me realise that this is a band who care about their fans, no matter how big they get. And that’s earned my respect.
And what the hell, the massive amounts of 3OH!3 on my iTunes made me lose all credibility anyway, so I may as well give in.