- Mon, 2011-03-28 10:52
L.A.’s Letlive rumbled into life midway through the last decade, releasing a pair of well-received albums whose hefty guitars, dextrous rhythms and versatile vocals established them as a promising new proposition on the post-hardcore scene. They have remained a name to know on the underground ever since, but last year’s release on a small independent label of their third album, Fake History, made the big boys sit up and take notice. Now signed to Bad Religion’s legendary Epitaph Records, Letlive and Fake History are finally going to be let loose on the wider world.
And the wider world should rejoice, because Fake History is a triumph of a record. The potential demonstrated on the band’s past releases has been fully realised, resulting in an album that is both blisteringly heavy and beautifully melodious. Songs like The Sick Sick 6.8 Billion and Over Being Under twist and turn, segueing from passages composed of complex riffs, scattershot rhythms and screamed vocals to ringing chords, resounding beats and sung choruses that drag you in and pull you along with hopelessly addictive hooks.
It’s been said of the band before and will undoubtedly be said many times again that they share a lot of their DNA with genre-heroes Glassjaw, and it’s true enough. When H. Ledger or Over Being Under tip from their brutal, breakneck openings into soaring harmonies and then back again it certainly invokes the spirit and sound of songs like Siberian Kiss, but there is equally a more anthemic edge to Letlive that might better be compared to the debut albums of The Used or Story Of The Year.
It is probably Jason Butler’s vocal style that most readily invites the comparison to Glassjaw. The way that he slips from strangled screams to singing in the space of a sentence, his polysyllabic and asymmetric lyrics, and the manner in which he occasionally swallows words and mutters phrases is more than a little reminiscent of Daryl Palumbo. However, rather than coming across as an affectation or cheap imitation, Butler’s bombastic delivery strikes one as completely natural, its quirks and oddities a result of the passion and honesty with which his impeccable lyrics are imbued rather than a calculated act of artifice.
Indeed, it’s just such a lack of artifice that prevents Fake History from simply being an album of brilliant post-hardcore, and allows it to be a brilliant album of post-hardcore. In other words, at no point does it seem as if the band have written the music first and then shoehorned in an appropriate sentiment, but rather that the sentiment has come first and the music is its spontaneous expression. So it is that Homeless Jazz can go from pummelling double-bass drumming to acoustic guitars in the blink of an eye, Muther can feature a boy/girl duet and an extended middle section revolving around jazzy piano chords, and Enemies (Enemigos) can descend into a We Will Rock You-esque breakdown with stadium-pomp vocal harmonies without ever seeming incongruous.
The only criticism that can be made of the album is that in its new incarnation under Epitaph it is three tracks longer than originally it was. Not a bad thing per se, but where previously Day 54 provided a perfect climax to the record with its seven minute-long metamorphosis from slow-paced, brooding shuffle to crashing waves of sound, it is now followed by a further three songs whose addition somewhat detracts from the flow of the album.
The quality of musicianship and inventiveness on display throughout Fake History makes it exemplary in its genre, but it is the candour and verve with which it is saturated that lends it a personality that technical ability on its own could never provide. Letlive have created something extremely special here that will be savoured for a long time to come.