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30 Seconds to Mars | A Beautiful Lie (Virgin Records)

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While Leto displays a tremendous amount of passion in his lyrics, some tracks (“The Story,” “Was It a Dream?”) walk a fine line between schmaltzy and pompous.

 

Jared Leto is a busy man. With his latest film, Lord of War, in theaters now and another movie, Lonely Hearts, currently filming, one would wonder how this actor/musician has time to sleep, let alone release an album. As I began thinking of other actors who tried to make the transition to rock god (Keanu Reeves with Dogstar and The Bacon Brothers come to mind, unfortunately), I wondered if Leto had the talent to bridge the gap.

On his band’s second CD, A Beautiful Lie, Leto—along with his brother Shannon on drums, Tomo Milicevic on guitar, and Matt Wachter on bass—manages to put out a remarkable disc full of hard-rock anthems and introspective ballads. On first listen, I was impressed with Leto’s strong vocals. He displays a notable range as he successfully segues from simple whispers to full-out throaty growls on several key tracks.

Leto’s vocals are framed by what can be best described as hard, techno rock with a dash of pop. The band’s music is driving, hook-y, and loud—enjoyably loud. Producer Josh Abraham (Velvet Revolver, Linkin Park) did a nice job in balancing the hard-edged music with lush vocals.

The only criticism I have is that the album may come off as too slick, overproduced. While Leto displays a tremendous amount of passion in his lyrics, some tracks (“The Story,” “Was It a Dream?”) walk a fine line between schmaltzy and pompous. Fortunately, the band seems to be aware of how thin this line can be, making sure to stay the course without becoming too self-indulgent.

The standout tracks (“Attack,” “Beautiful Lie,” “The Kill”) all exude the same strong elements: interesting lyrics, sweeping vocals, and a pulsing rhythm section. Each of these infectious tracks could be standalone singles, as they all display a remarkable amount of musical maturity and charisma.

Leto turns out to be one of those rare actors (e.g., Juliette Lewis) who can pull off dual careers. Hell, if musicians can make the transition to acting (Courtney Love, Madonna) then why not let Leto prove the reverse is achievable? In any case, if his musical career falters, he’ll still have My So-Called Life and Requiem for a Dream residuals to fall back on.


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