“I’m going to say this if you promise not to make it the headline: I think this will be the album that makes it okay to like Thirty Seconds To Mars.”
That’s Jared Leto’s take on his band’s new LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS album, and though we didn’t use it as a headline, well, we probably should have. Because not only does it represent one of the first times Leto has acknowledged his band’s cooler-than-thou critics (and, by default, Mars’ inherent uncoolness), but it pretty much sums up everything he and his musical mates hope to accomplish this time around: Namely, erase their past and become the biggest band in the world.
“We feel like it’s the best thing we’ve ever done in our entire lives. It’s not just a rock record, we’re still a rock band and a big part of what we do is guitars and drums, building on the tradition of rock music, but we’ve also thrown a lot of that aside,” Leto said. “There are songs like ‘End of All Days’ or ‘City of Angels’ or ‘Pyres of Varanasi,’ that are something entirely new for us. But then you have ‘Conquistador,’ that’s big and bombastic and full of guitars, and ‘Birth,’ that’s this huge, epic soundscape. I’m excited for people to hear it … We’re ready to unleash the beast.”
And DREAMS is most certainly a beast; full of ethereal sonics, experimental instrumentals, and massive, electro-rockers like first single “Up in the Air,” it pushes Mars’ already massive sound to new heights. But at the same time, there are masterfully minimal moments, too: the gently burbling synthesizers that open “City of Angels,” the keening electronics of “Bright Lights,” etc. They show that Mars have learned to say more with less, which is a good thing … after all, they’ve got plenty to say on the new album.
“The album is incredibly cohesive, like our last album. We had this huge battle with our record company, got sued for $30 million, and that fight, helped glue This Is War together. It was an album about conflict, about survival,” Leto said. “And this album is glued together in a different way, through these four themes love lust faith and dreams. It’s a concept record, if it’s not, I don’t know what is. It’s not a rock opera — I know people get that confused often — but this is a conceptual album, it’s not a narrative piece.”
But for all its sonic bombast and conceptual cohesion, DREAMS makes its biggest statement in perhaps its quietest moment: the tiny sound of a music box playing a refrain from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” theme. It comes after ominous album-closer “Depuis le Debut,” and while Leto wasn’t quite ready to reveal how the themes of “Swan Lake” tie in to the concept of the record, he did let it be known that that little music box speaks volumes about the personal nature of Mars’ new album. After all, they’ve survived the War, now, they’re ready for the next fight … winning over the world.
“It was my brother’s idea to get that music box on the album; it was an instrument my mother used to play for us when we were kids — I think my grandmother gave it to us,” Leto said. “She used to put us to sleep with this little music box. So it’s a really personal element, and a great way to end the album. It all means so much to us.”