The charming debut record from Lifehouse called No Name Face took a lot of people by surprise when it first arrived 20 years ago. Led by singer/songwriter Jason Wade, the band was able to capture radio magic right from the get-go with their radio mega-hit “Hanging By A Moment.” The song went on to be the most played song of 2001 and allowed for the album to sell over 2.5 million units in the United States alone. Apart from the lead single and introductory song on the record, the LP is surrounded by several well-crafted songs that showcased Wade’s lyrical depth and vocal prowess at the tender age of 20 years old. The band was able to pull on the heart strings of America and made several TV appearances during the promotional cycle of the album. Looking back at this album brought up a lot of memories of listening to this record front to back during the autumn of my senior year of high school. What set Lifehouse apart from most of the other bands I was listening to during this era of music was their way of telling great stories through their music, and it made for an album that would stand the test of time.
With other singles such as the second track, “Sick Cycle Carousel,” Wade and his other bandmates (Sergio Andrade – bass, and Jon Palmer- drums) were able to show that they were far from a one-hit wonder. The mellower song, compared to the lead single, features some well thought out lyrics and a nice hook on the build up to the chorus. In the opening notes, Wade gives a nod to where the title of the record came from as he sings solemnly, “If shame had a face I think it would kind of look like mine / If it had a home would it be my eyes / Would you believe me if I said I’m tired of this / Well here we go now one more time.” The tender moments on the album far outweigh the energetic charge of the lead track, but the band’s later work is more in the realm of the thoughtful rock found here.
”Unknown” follows the great one-two punch of the first two songs, and keeps the vibes fairly mellow as the band continues to expand upon the elements that made them a household name. The song is built around a spiraling guitar riff by Wade and the band is able to rally around the frontman’s trademark croon. “Somebody Else’s Song” follows with a slow build to a ear-pleasing chorus of, “I’m feeling like I’m chasing / Like I’m facing myself alone / I’ve got somebody else’s thoughts in my head / I want some of my own.” Wade is able to give us some insight on his state of mind as well as figuring out how he’s going to make his own band stand apart from his own influences.
”Trying” is one of the quieter songs on the album and features some beautiful backing vocals by Jude Cole to complement Wade’s voice on the chorus. It’s one of several “campfire” guitar songs that are found on the record, but has the benefit of some backing strings and piano arrangements to make the song sound even larger. “Only One” is a similar sounding song, but gets back to the stylistic choices of “Unknown” and “Somebody Else’s Song” to make it fit in this sequencing.
The band rarely cranks up the guitars, and the closest they get to a full-blown rock moment can be found on songs like “Cling and Clatter” and particularly on “Quasimodo.” On the latter track, they rarely use the acoustic guitar to complement Wade’s vocals, and it makes for a great moment on the album that’s main fault was lacking a variety of different tempos and styles. The band really hits their groove on the final bridge when Wade sings passionately, “Cause I don’t want it / I don’t want it / You can’t change me / You can’t break me.”
The band falls back into their comfort zone on the closing tracks of “Somewhere in Between” and the sprawling “Everything.” On the album closer, the whispering vocals eventually bleed away for a pleasing crescendo of noise at the four minute mark as Wade sings confidently, “You’re all I want / You’re all I need / You’re everything, everything.” It makes for a great closing statement for an album that could have used a few more unique elements such as the moment found on this song.
This debut album by Lifehouse still gets semi-regular plays in my record rotation and still lives up to the initial hype when it landed in the music limelight 20 years ago. The band was able to round out their sound on the subsequent records that followed, and made for a great and on-going songwriting career for Jason Wade. The momentum they gained from this album only solidified their stamp on the “adult” rock scene, and would eventually pave the way for their next mega-hit in 2005’s “You and Me” that seemed to be played everywhere, from shopping centers to weddings. By taking a look back at this moment in time from the young rockers, it’s clear that they had the blueprint for sustained success.