I’ve always thought Angels & Airwaves could be a really cool band. Spacey, U2 style rock but with more energy and hooks than most put into it? Sounds like an absolute blast. And, to be fair, that’s what AvA’s better songs sound like. The band arrived more or less fully formed on the 2006 debut We Don’t Need to Whisper, and hasn’t really done much past their initial sound. Love: Part 1 was released last year, and pushed some boundaries, tried some new things, and was ultimately good enough that I even think it’s the band’s best album. Truth be told, I forgot that LOVE was a double album in two parts until a few weeks ago when I heard that the new single “Surrender” was out, but hey, here we are.
Love: Part 2 falls flat right away. Leading tracks “Saturday Love” and “Surrender” are probably the most boldfaced “The Adventure” retreads that Angels & Airwaves have ever done. The guitars ring out in all the predictable places, the synths creep in right when you expect them to, and the band slogs through the mid-tempo beat with workman-like monotony. It’s not that they’re terrible songs, but they’re weaker versions of what the band’s done in the past, and immediately strip away any of the progress made in Love: Part 1.
Thankfully, though, things improve slightly with third song “Anxiety”. The usual AvA single formula is there, but redeemed somewhat by a chorus with a grinding guitar riff. We’re four albums in, and I don’t know why DeLonge and company change so gradually. They’re comfortable in “The Adventure” rewrites, but at the same time, those are the songs that feel the stiffest. This is a band that improves marginally with a boot to the ass; previous songs “It Hurts”, “Flight of Apollo”, and now “Dry Your Eyes” and “Inertia” are good because they stay in the same basic Angels & Airwaves perimeter, but are kinetic at the same time.
After weathering a poor-to-decent first half, Love: Part 2‘s back six is pretty decent. “Dry Your Eyes” gives the album a nice shot of adrenaline, and “One Last Thing” might be the band’s shortest song at 2:53, and the brevity helps. “Inertia” takes awhile to get off the ground, but makes up for it with some true tension, not to mention a solid guitar riff. “Behold a Pale Horse” (no, I don’t get it, either) changes little to the usual AvA sound of echoy guitars, spacey synths, and DeLonge’s stars-in-the-eyes vocals, but the band sound vital. Closer “All That We Are” might be the most singular song in the band’s canon: the first half is a mostly electronic ballad, but then morphs into a band jam/extended guitar solo.
The back half is successful, but there are still some lingering problems. As always, the lyrics are trying too hard; “My Heroine (It’s Not Over)” sounds like a sophomore in high school writing to his girlfriend, just for one example. The extended outros from the last record are back and as meh as they were then, but I suspect the record would run short without them. I know that it’s customary to beat-up on Tom DeLonge for his nasally, pinched singing, and while there’s still plenty of that, he also turns in decent, lower vocals on “Moon As My Witness” and other songs.
Overall, Love: Part 2 is a frustratingly normal AvA album. As always, the band shows signs of change and development, but doesn’t embrace them, or any of the changes that were present on Love: Part 1. Fans and listeners that stick around past, say, “My Heroine” will be surprised, but the first couple of songs drag down an otherwise great album. Three stars out of five.
tl;dr: Love: Part 2 pushes AvA’s sound (if only slightly) for a transitional result. 3/5
End note: Considering the LOVE project as a double album compliments both records. The first disc is still somewhat better, and I really wish that the first half of Part 1 (call it the beginning to “Epic Holiday”) was combined with the second half of Part 2 for a single album. Such a result would unquestionably hands down be Angels & Airwaves’ best album. At the same time, it would be fairly redundant, and the little variety on both sides goes a long way, 4/5 for LOVE as a double album.