World War III

World War III

Madina Lake, World War III, Sony/Razor and Tie

Concept albums aren’t new to rock and roll’s legacy.  From Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads in the 50s, to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Who’s Tommy and David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, musical narratives have long been celebrated catching the attention of huge commercial audiences.  In the ‘00s and ‘10s, concept albums have seen resurgence.  The Smashing Pumpkins had their Machina, Marilyn Manson became the Anti-Christ Superstar, Coheed and Cambria introduced their sci-fi inspired Armory Wars universe and Green Day sent their American Idiot all the way to Broadway, capturing two Tony’s along the way.

Chicago’s alternative rock quartet Madina Lake threw their hat into the concept record ring in 2009, when they began an album trilogy, which is set in a fictional 1950s town that is turned upside-down by the disappearance of socialite Adalia.  The band upped the ante by introducing a book and website devoted to helping fans uncover clues in the bands lyrics, album art and videos to help them solve the Adalia mystery.  But, in the post-internet, smart phone and Facebook world, where young listeners are inundated with their alternative rock at every tweet and turn, exactly how immersed is the typical 15 to 21 year old willing to get?  A simple Google image search on “Coheed and Cambria tattoo” says some are serious enough to ink the circles, stars and triangle representing the 78 planets of a fictional universe into their skin.

So, Madina Lake may be onto something.  And World War III has some bells and whistles; slick production, big arena rock guitars, and frontman Nathan Leone’s delivery resonates somewhere between 30 Seconds To Mars’ Jared Leto and Placebo’s Brian Molko.  Unfortunately, I’m just not interested.  Despite a helping hand on “Imagineer” from Mr. Smashing Pumpkins himself (Billy Corgan), fans of rock, metal (Mastodon’s Crack The Skye), and even rap (Jay-Z’s American Gangster anyone?) are inundated with this stuff.  In order to have a leg up, Madina Lake’s mystery saga has to outshine their contemporaries (for instance My Chemical Romance’s recent Fabulous Killjoys).  And simply, World War III goes in this listener’s one ear and out the other.

I’d gladly admit to having outgrown the allure of musical narratives except I still get goosebumps from Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” and gladly joined MCR’s Black Parade.  Simply, I’ve already quit giving a rip about finding what’s her name.

Recommended For Fans Of: 30 Seconds To Mars, Placebo, Smashing Pumpkins

(Madina Lake’s closest Ohio Fall/Winter 2011 tour date is November 29 at Peabody’s in Cleveland, OH.)