This is not Fake History pt. II, nor is it a reprise. Instead, letlive.‘s follow-up to Fake History, titled The Blackest Beautiful, sees the Los Angeles-based quartet deviate a little into “poppier” territory. This isn’t a damning indictment of the record however, as the songs meander between boppy post-punk and the all-out aural assault fans were introduced to on FH.
Though The Blackest Beautiful is letlive.’s fourth full-length, the band only shot to prominence on the back of Fake History‘s release. FH, if not widely considered a modern post-hardcore classic, at least warrants essential listening status. Such was the frenzied hype surrounding the band and frontman Jason Aalon Butler’s tempestuous live performances that he was, perhaps rather over-enthusiastically, labeled “the greatest rockstar in the world” by a music magazine.
If you’re worried about whether the band manages to capture their infamously explosive live shows in the studio, then rest easy. Butler’s scathing critiques of religion, giant corporations and the American dream are jammed right into your face, as he somehow manages to utilize even more guttural screams. He continues to shine on the sung vocal parts, at times channeling the late Michael Jackson‘s vocal stylings. Listen closely, you’ll hear it.
Tracks such as “Banshee (Ghost Fame),” “That Fear Fever” and closer “27 Club” are easily the most accessible tracks on the album, with the familiar fusion of catchy riffs from guitarists Jean Francisco Nascimento and Jeff Sahyoun and the sound of a drumkit being very much thrashed to oblivion.
Despite it being bandied about as a highly collaborative effort, Butler is very much pushed to the record’s front and center. His vocals dominate each and every track, from “White America’s Beautiful Black Market” to the slow-burning “Virgin Dirt.” While there isn’t such a thing as too much of Butler, the tracks on this record don’t seem to have the vastly different personalities of Fake History. I’m sure a number of you will disagree with me but I found FH to have more distinctly differentiated songs.
The only other critiques I have are with regards to Butler’s disconcerting fixation on the same themes in his lyrics. When he first sang about religion on Fake History it was intriguing; hollering about it on The Blackest Beautiful is where the material starts to fall short. It’s not as if he’s found anything particularly groundbreaking to rant about.
The other massive flaw in the record lies within the album production itself. For a label-backed effort and one which the band self-produced, it is ultimately riddled with niggling issues that detract from the album’s quality. The occasional awkwardly auto-tuned vocal track, the muddy instrumentation and how hard you have to strain to notice the album’s best elements are things that leap to mind.
I want to love letlive.’s The Blackest Beautiful. I really do. Instead, I find myself merely “really liking” the album. I say merely because this is letlive. we’re talking about. My expectations (and I suspect, those of many other fans) were always going to be exorbitantly high.
Overall, The Blackest Beautiful is tight instrumentally, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, no one element stands out significantly. What the record lacks for in significant innovation, it certainly makes up for in passion. Still, I’d say much more was expected out of the band, and though a great album it does not make, it certainly is worthy of being a part of letlive.’s catalogue.