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letlive.
The Blackest Beautiful David Keevill , September 16th, 2013 04:17

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The human condition is imperfect – take joy in its incongruities and complexities, relish its faults and, most vitally, live in the knowledge that very little of what you do will fulfil the ideals that your earliest dreams recklessly pieced together. The Blackest Beautiful is every blemish that you choose to show, and not cover up, the closet built of skeletons that stands plainly in the corner of your bedroom, the crosshatch of scars that lie just below your watchline…

The Blackest Beautiful, letlive.'s third studio album, is a driven and masterfully conceived example of grown-up hedonism; a record that knows its own worth, but couldn't give a single fuck if anyone else believes it. It's not oblivious, it just shows the same kind of indifference to your opinion that Jason Butler (letlive.'s frontman) does to his own mortality at every show he plays.

Fake History (the band's second album) was flecked with pockets of air, breathing spaces filled with gargantuan melodic hooks that punched through the leaping guitar lines and pushed past Butler's snarling, saccharine vocal delivery. Songs like the magnificent 'Muther' moved away from the homages to Glassjaw and other post-hardcore ancestry, instead opting for a slowed-down, mesmerising back-and-forth between the vocal protagonists (Butler was joined by an unknown female singer); morphine following the frenzied surgery of 'Casino Columbus.'

The Blackest Beautiful shows no such compromise. It's an album filled with no melodic stop-gaps and no obvious segments of respite; it's this, most of all that is so utterly revealing of letlive.'s confidence in what they've done here. The band see no need to push aside the endless carnival of their music for something more comprehendible, but instead opt to paste the devastating spectacle of their live shows into an album bursting with unfeasible depth and movement. The reckless abandon that flows from this kineticism belies the scope of the graft that has gone in here, and the wealth of influences that are done such justice; 'Dope Beat's twitchy intro, for example, carries the explosive, satirical propensity of Refused's The Shape of Punk To Come while 'Empty Elvis' comes barrelling from your speakers with all the fury and disregard of Glassjaw's 'Mu Empire'.

And yet, though it's initially astounding to hear letlive. paying such homage to their influences, the real, burrowing worm of The Blackest Beautiful is to be found in the convoluted tract of the album itself. Countless listens and you still emerge from the chaos holding onto vocal lines that you missed before, and sweet, hazy moments of shimmering guitar that had been buried beneath tribal drumming (as on 'White America's Beautiful Black Market'). Jason Butler's delivery is endlessly versatile, selling disaffection with nails in one hand and pearls in the other, forever playing the ringleader to his band's capering circus, and never dropping behind.

For all its complexity and dazzling scope, The Blackest Beautiful never loses its ability to channel the seething madness and, most importantly, fun of the band's live show. It may well be unreserved and inconsiderate in its musical slant, although lyrically it shows a scathing, but scattergun, approach to America's ills, but the album's indifference to your approval is matched by the vitality of a band who are living in a world that could be gone any moment. letlive. have hit their stride, and they found it by pulling the barrel until it's touching the temple.

Rob
Sep 16, 2013 3:36pm

Complete, but very pleasant, surprise to see 'this sort of thing' being covered here. I mean, I know there's no mandate for genre coverage on tQ, but it's not often stuff from the realms of Punknews etc. gets a look-in. Which is a shame, because there's a lot within that general sphere that deserves lucid consideration from someone who a. can string an enticing sentence together and b. isn't automatically gonna spew about how great it is. So, thanks. More?

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