Thirty Seconds To Mars debuted with their self titled record in 2002, before really busting into the mainstream just three years later when 2005’s A Beautiful Lie reminded the world just how exciting a new set of rock anthems could be.
From there, the three piece, arena rock outfit released a couple more solid projects, with front man Jared Leto finding time between cutting massive amounts of weight and mailing used condoms to coworkers for roles, (Dallas Buyer’s Club and Suicide Squad, respectively) to record a very iconic lead vocal over his brother’s drum work and various other contributions from a relatively small staple of instrumentalists. Their discography is relatively diverse, but their recent release, AMERICA, changes their formula more than ever before.
A part of me nearly stopped this record in the first ten seconds, as the opener, “Walk on Water” bursts in with heavy synth and overproduced vocal shouts on a hook, but I stuck it out, and for the most part, I’m glad.
The record consistently toes the line between cheesy, pop-rock on tracks like “Dangerous Night” and genuinely interesting arena rock on tracks like “Hail To The Victor.” A casual listener may face the creeping fear that Mars is going the way of Fall Out Boy, but there is something of worth in much of this project.
Leto’s vocals, above all, are excellent! Seeing as the band seems to have done away with the more traditional elements of a rock record in favor of heavy synth and canned drums, Leto’s vocal leadership is make or break here, and he makes it work here. He’s easily the highlight of every song, and old school Mars fans have something to enjoy in his performance.
This does not, however, apply to his lyricism, which boring and platitudinous throughout. Lines like “A thin line, the whole truth. The far right, the left view,” hint at a desire to speak to the current state of American politics, but Leto constantly stops short of saying anything substantive aside from cliched calls for unity. Not everyone needs to write about politics, and in fact, I’d be completely happy to hear a 30 Seconds To Mars project which is devoid of any politics, but instead we get half baked, safe statements, and it really devalues the tracks.
And that sums this record up in a lot of ways, a safe release that lays claim to more controversy and importance than it truly has. The several interesting album covers which have circulated range from listing rich YouTubers, to lists of popular sex positions, each seeming to make a statement, but each saying nothing in the end.
Essentially all of Shannon Leto’s drum work is either boring or extremely distracting, and if I hear one more bombastic synthesizer I’ll lose my mind! Features like A$AP Rocky and Halsey fall extremely flat and add little to the overall direction of the project.
The final few tracks are redeeming, and the acoustic ballad “Remedy,” is by far the best track in the lineup, and “Rider” serves as a depressing reminder of just how good and interesting this album could have been as it abruptly closes out the forty-ish minute runtime. But even these aren’t enough to make up for the relative blandness of this project.
AMERICA is worth a listen for fans of the group, but it certainly won’t turn you into a fan if you aren’t already. For that, might I suggest any other entry in their now five album discography, as this is by far the weakest link.
HEAR AMERICA – https://open.spotify.com/album/0XcHdI2ZyNADjfvo5Ubs39