Angels and Airwaves, Love / Love Part II

I'm not sure how to catalogue this, since it was not originally issued as a double album (indeed, both parts were released a year apart), but they're clearly intended retrospectively to be: the box set contains both discs with the same art and unified packaging, and frontman/Blink-182 alumnus Tom DeLonge treats them both as part of the same whole, first and foremost a soundtrack for the vanity Love movie project but also a unified stand-alone work in its own right. So that's how I'm going to write this review, as a double album in two halves. And the first half isn't too bad. It's a far more mature sound, as to be expected from his own personal musical evolution, but also an impressively prog-styled one with surprisingly strong degrees of formalism. There's the first track ("El Ducit Mundum Per Luce"), obviously intended as overture, the main theme ("The Flight of Apollo," textured and post-punk all at once), and then a descending array of variations upon that theme through to the closer ("Some Origins of Fire") with the finale alternating between sweeping sections both fast and slow in such precise cadence you can practically see the credits roll in your mind's eye. The rigid thematic structure of the first disc is both good and bad; it's bad in that the dependence on the core ambient feel makes few of the tracks truly stand out, and the couple of tracks that were thrown in presumably to stand out ("Epic Holiday" in particular) seem forced, but it's good in that the internal consistency of the music remains whole. That brings us to the second half. A year later, there are some mild subtle differences in his voice and the mix, but the overall structure is almost a carbon copy ("Saturday Love" serving as overture, "Surrender" as main theme) with melodic callbacks to the first disc (particularly noticeable in "Anxiety" and "The Revelator"). More so than the first, the second disc particularly feels as if the band wanted it to be more "soundtracky," its irregularity driven by an apparent dependency on some lost video track only the musicians are watching. This dooms "Moon as My Witness," for example, which might have been something with a couple more verses, and "Inertia," with its rapid swerves and stylistic swoops suggesting every jump cut and wipe the CD doesn't let you see. In the plus column "Behold A Pale Horse" certainly gets some points for its apocalyptic imagery and "All That We Are" is a moving conclusion, but you hear very little musically in the second part that you didn't hear in some prototyped form in the first (and lyrically it adds even less). "Love" in its final multipartite realization isn't irredeemable but its sprawling sound just isn't anywhere near as great or innovative as the band thinks it is, as is the case with nearly every double album ever released. The deluxe set includes the Love movie, a slight but intriguing indie sci-fi effort that delighted me as a big fan of Moon but will likely bore those not greatly inclined towards emotional pontification in space. If you're not interested in such things you lose little by just buying the first disc by itself, which makes me wonder if I should have reviewed it that way too. (Content: some profanity.)