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Lifehouse's ace is unequivocally Jason Wade's voice—an agile instrument that can simmer reflectively when the moment calls for delicacy, or blaze fervently when emotion is on the verge of overspill. While there were plenty of alt-rock anthems on the airwaves to choose from in 2000, American audiences fell hard for the band's inaugural single "Hanging by a Moment" and the mélange of Wade's impassioned delivery and the song's irresistible hook. The single was a bit of a slow burner at first, as it took almost five months after its initial release to crack the Billboard Hot 100. But the impressive airplay and sales it amassed leading up to and long after its number two peak in June 2001 ensured its spot as the magazine's top single of the entire year.
Although "Hanging..." provides the album with its undisputed anchor, the balance of No Name Face is a strong batch of songs that illustrate the band's penchant for well-constructed melodies. The set's sophomore single "Sick Cycle Carousel" is slightly brighter sounding than its predecessor, but Wade's gravelly yelp still adds a punch of urgency. Its meaning, among other songs, Wade has written for the band over the years, has been debated by fans and critics - mostly about whether or not it's an outward expression of Christian devotion. When asked specifically about "Sick Cycle...", Wade has been deflective. "It's one of those songs I'm really afraid to put an explanation to as far as what it's about for me personally," he previously told MTV Radio. "I don't want it to lose its mystery and mystique. Everyone interprets it differently. It's funny hearing people telling what's it's about to them because then I can go, 'Maybe that's what it's about.' It's got a weird mystique to me still."
While none of the songs on No Name Face explicitly mention a higher power, Wade's compositions make frequent references to spirituality, exemplified in mid-tempo rocker "Unknown" ("I am falling into grace to the unknown to where you are / And faith makes everybody scared"), and third single "Breathing" ("I'm looking past the shadows in my mind into the truth / and I'm trying to identify the voices in my head / God, which one's you?").
Wade's protagonists are often conflicted and searching for understanding under difficult circumstances, but they're buoyed by glimmers of hope and resolve. That complex push-and-pull in Wade's writing at this early stage is quite remarkable given that he was still a teenager when most of the songs were written for the album.
Some of No Name Face's best moments are when Wade shifts gears from full tilt rocker to balladeer. The anxiously sweet "Somewhere in Between"—which was reportedly written upon meeting his then future wife, Braeden—and the gentle roll of "Simon" show that he can emote just as powerfully when he's at a comparative whisper. It's even better when he can marry his strengths on the album's closing track , the haunting "Everything.” The six-minute epic begins as a cool breeze as Wade's wistful baritone breaks through soft acoustic picking and low moans from a cello; by minute four, it's gale force as he explodes into full voice with knifing percussion and cranked electric guitars.
No Name Face's greatest asset is its sincerity. Wade's conviction as a singer and songwriter was an important driving force behind its success and certainly it remains one of the reasons Lifehouse has survived seventeen years of abrupt and radical change in the industry while many of their contemporaries have since faded. But the band's unwavering messages of faith, literal or implied, and hope in spite of the pitfalls of life and love have also retained their universal appeal. No Name Face has aged well as a respite for those who are still mucking their way through the same struggles that Wade contended with in his early twenties.