Ever since letlive. released a stream of ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ onto YouTube a few weeks ago, the words of frontman Jason Aalon Butler have filled the columns of music journalists left, right and centre. From the many articles I have encountered, it appears this album is born from the very darkest corners of Butler’s heart; it has been a difficult outpouring for him but one he is glad to have released. The album deals with issues he feels deeply connected to such as his personal failures with love and also those which concern the wider society such as the London Riots and the destructive nature of the government. What’s important to remember when listening to this album is that it is an autobiography, a statement and a text of sacrament to be engulfed word by word; it is an album of blood, sweat and tears, quite literally in this case, and whilst it might seem like a nice listen on the surface, on the third, fourth, maybe even fifth listen, you become involved in the lyrics as though they are your story; suddenly the words clinging onto Butler’s soul, cling on to yours. This alone makes it a special album. This album is the definition of letlive. and it could also be the definition of the modern day ‘soul punx’ music scene.
Debut single from the album and opening track ‘Banshee (Ghost Fame)’ immediately packs a punch and gives you the impression that this is going to be a special album. With every listen you can imagine Butler, pacing up and down the stage, screaming every word with the intent to leave his mark. It’s a song with grooves and riffs able to start moshpits, sing-a-longs and dancing, a combination that only letlive. could achieve.
Second track ‘Empty Elvis’ continues this dance-come-mosh vibe and can certainly be considered as a stand out track on the album; it’s catchy and infectious and still has meaning. Next comes ‘White America’s Beautiful Black Market’, a song about the abuse of health and disease by the money grabbing companies of the modern day. Following this is ‘Dreamer’s Disease’ where Butler turns the mirror on himself as he reflects on his own romantic endeavours. It’s only here that you realise this is a bearing of the soul; “There’s no such thing as heartache, you idiot, it’s all in your head” Butler tells himself.
‘That Fear Fever’ provides yet another catchy groove for crowds to jump around and dance to but yet again returns to a meaning much deeper than you’d first realise. Targeting the government’s attitude and the “very thin line” they may be walking, Butler is trying to teach others what the world is really like. Next track ‘Virgin Dirt’ switches focus back to Butler’s romantic struggles over one of the most steady tracks of the album. In next track ‘Younger’ we find the first guitar solo which is just as beautiful as the beat it is sandwiched into and it is a beat that continues into ‘That Dope Beat.’ This track mirrors it’s subject, the London Riots in a way that reflects the adrenalin, mentality and chaos of all those involved in the historic event. What is captured here is the irony of the riots- “I started a fire, burnt down my house, now I’ve got nowhere to call home.”
The final trio of tracks ‘The Priest and Used Cars’, ‘Pheromone Cvlt’ and ’27 Club’ see letlive. give it all they have got. ‘The Priest and Used Cars’ sees a sudden increase in tempo and a look at the clash of religion and science-“When science marries fairy tale, tastes like holy water’s stale.” ‘Pheromone Cvlt’ sees another honest look at how Butler views women and his relationship with them; by almost deifying women, his heart is on his sleeve and it’s almost as though you can feel his pain as he explains “the grass is cut and now I know myself.” Final track ’27 Club’ is possibly the longest song letlive. have ever recorded, totalling 7 minutes and 29 seconds. It’s a song which combines elements from throughout the whole album; it’s upbeat, it’s serious, it’s empathetic, it’s educational. It is an explosion of sounds and it is the perfect ending to an album of a generation.
‘The Blackest Beautiful’ not only lives up to previous album ‘Fake History’ (2010) but it exceeds it, something which was thought to be nearing on impossible. What is clear from this album is that letlive. have finally come into their own; with a tour impending later this year and a fan base growing with every listen, this is a band to watch. In a recent interview Butler said “There genuinely are treasures in darkness and I do believe [there is] no light without dark” and ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ proves his point perfectly.
By: Alice Hoddinott