letlive. - The Blackest Beautiful

letlive. - The Blackest Beautiful

The first time letlive. have really put their stamp on a record.


What a world we live in, eh? Modern society, gizmos and gadgets, the world shrinking power of the internet - everything seems geared up for transience: instagram photos don’t end up in albums, tumblr posts rarely make it into hard copy diaries and lives are lived vicariously through the microblogs of others. In the culture of our music too, things have changed. There has been an inexorable shift towards a system which lauds whatever the given flavour of the month is before cutting them loose when something more apt to impress your friends with on multitudinous social networks rolls around. It must be hard for bands in this day and age to work out what the fuck is going on, how to get a fix on their standing in this ever changing flux, especially if they are the subject of the, at times frightening, power of the hype machine. 

On planet rock, letlive. have been one of those bands who have toiled under the weight of hyperbole and mass hysteria for the last 18 months. Their third album ‘Fake History’ was met with a flurry of praise while their live show has come to be revered as one of the most unhinged and ferocious going. The truth though is that while ‘Fake History’ was a startling, slap in the face of a record, an album cannot truly be great if it pinches, pilfers, begs, borrows and steals from elsewhere, no matter how much fizz and energy is then injected into its veins. That third LP is a good album, no doubt, but it is the sound of a band still trying to find its way, leaning on the crutches of their influences perhaps a little too heavily and suffering by comparison for it.

‘The Blackest Beautiful’ ain’t that.

This record is a punch in the gut to whatever expectations you might have about letlive. and from the moment the wailing, squawking, samba infused of opener ‘Banshee’ kicks in it is apparent that the band have gone hell for leather to step out of the shadows and into their own light. The quick step verses give way to a chorus which, sure, is catchy, but it isn’t a earworm slipping silkily into your ear, it’s an insect gnawing its way beneath your skin. The unhinged-ness that makes this bands live show such a presence? It has finally made it to record.

It’s there again on the crashing ‘Empty Elvis’ which threatens to rip itself apart from the inside before breaking out, courtesy of the vocal gymnastics of Jason Butler, into a truly skyscraping final third. A word on Butler’s vocals – while previously he seemed to be channelling the likes of Daryl Palumbo a little too much with his away from the mic motifs, here he judges it perfectly; unstoppably venomous when required, beautifully melodic when the mood takes him. It is a mesmeric performance which marks him out as one of the finest front men in the game. 

Most importantly though this feels like the first time letlive. as a band as a whole have really put their stamp on a record. Fans will no doubt love the throat ripping chorus of ‘That Fear Fever’ and swagger of ‘The Dope Beat’ but it’s in the measured atmospherics of songs like ‘Virgin Dirt’ and ‘Younger’ where ‘The Blackest Beautiful”s success really lies, proving to the doubters that they a capable of a nuance and originality which seemed previously lacking. 

We live, undoubtedly, in a world of hyperbole but letlive seem to have pulled off that most difficult of tricks here – making an album which both forwards their sound and lives up to improbably high expectations. Make no mistake, this is a better album than ‘Fake History’ and one which announces the band’s arrival as not a flash in the pan or a one trick pony but a serious force for the next decade or longer. On ‘White America’s Beautiful Black Market’ Butler furiously emotes “we’re finally deserving what we get…” and if the hype machine had previously inflated letlive’s worth beyond their means then with this LP they are most certainly redressing that balance. They deserve all that ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ will surely bring them.