31/08/2013

Review

Letlive
The Blackest Beautiful
Rating: 4/5

What interestingly came available to stream online a whole month before its physical release, on 9th July – Letlive showcased to the world The Blackest Beautiful. The daring act of kindness and generosity showed how confident they were about their fan base; they’re one of those bands that have ‘true’ fans, that will still go out and buy that music, be it on a CD or iTunes  - risky, but incredibly respectful and deserving, letting the whole music industry know that this band are in it for the right reasons.

The first I found out about this album was the Instagram marketing they did that suddenly sprung up – an incredible idea: themselves, friends, other bands and a like posted a set of different photos on the same day, all with the same hashtag, #theblackestbeautiful, causing everyone to become baffled and inquisitive. I remember clicking on the hashtag link and being so impressed with how clever the whole concept was. Or, as vocalist Butler put it in a recent interview, “That’s the beauty of art. Art allows you to be that person that is atypical, that person that is outside of the box, that strange person”.

From the band that pushes the boundaries of post-hardcore, progressive rock, mathcore, experimental rock, the inheritors of that uncategorisable blend will no doubt receive a rapt reception for this release. Opening salvo ‘Banshee (Ghost Frame)’ announces a band that has remained loyal to their hardcore origins, “It’s not a wild departure from our previous record by any means, it’s very much Letlive in its essence”. The song is a mammoth sonic attack, reflecting the melting pot Los Angeles neighbourhood in which the band came together, blended up with a mature jazz and funk twist than the likes that ‘Muther’ displayed from previous efforts. And that’s only the first track.

Many people tend to jump to and fro on the ‘they sound just like Glassjaw’ bandwagon, and with the likes of ‘White America's Beautiful Black Market’, this argument will be never ending – but that’s a good thing, surely? The jazzy infused breakdowns we come across on this track in particular (and later approached somewhat in ‘27 Club’... Have you not listened to ‘Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Silence’ (Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Silence, 2001)? How about the breakdown found in there; sound familiar? Not even the subtle, spoken word bridge? The drums in ‘The Priest and Used Cars’ bring me straight back to ‘Convectuoso’ (Worship and Tribute, 2003) too...

Reaching ‘Dreamer's Disease’, one begins to understand just how unpredictable the album is; matching the constant tempo changes along the way in each song too, where it’s Letlive’s often confrontational lyrics, and it’s this theme that progresses throughout a stand-out release and thoroughly enjoyable listen. ‘Pheromone Cvlt’ struck me, as it opens with this disco-like number, which instantly makes me think my shuffle has come into play, and put on a We Are the Fury song by mistake, displaying a new melodic sophistication: their music development, much like their frontman, cannot sit still.

‘27 Club’, for me, is the pinnacle, and rightly slotted as the concluding track of the record. Almost like a continuation to ‘H. Ledger’, (Heath Ledger being a member of the notorious ‘club’), or link up to the line “They said you’re nobody till someone kills you, that’s what B.I.G. said, so I do too” in ‘Renegade ‘86’, (also the riff from that song prevails after all the experimentation, they still maintained their strong house style – you could listen to this for the first time and easily think ‘Yeah, this is a Letlive song’). Featuring lines like “They told me if I look up, they told me I would find you there”, the ongoing theme is apparent – however there is later a tongue in cheek twist to religion with that line, when Butler sings in the bridge “If I look up to find you, then how can I deny you?”. Lyrics from previous track ‘Younger’ also solidify this idea brought on from the ‘club’: “Only the good die young”.

But anyway, ‘27 Club’ is a howler of a track, it’s opening riff is just full of adrenaline; whilst the bass provides so much hardcore funk, it impresses me every time I listen to it, and ultimately grows on me more with each listen. Butler, who is 27 himself, flares his vocals throughout in this middle finger to modern media. Front Magazine usually write bollocks from start to finish of their monthly two hundred pages, but they actually had something beautiful to say about this album: “The songs are emotive in the extreme as they boil with anger in a way that’s relentlessly passionate and stirring, whilst avoiding all of the typically macho bulls*** hardcore clichés and replacing them with cool-as-s*** couplets and intelligent, thought-provoking rage” (Issue 183).

I think I ended up only giving this album a 4 out of 5 rating, because in my mind I’ve been thinking ‘how do you better your best?’. The album is fantastic, but I still expected more, knowing that it’s not quite possible. Butler bears his soul in this explosive mix of eleven tracks, to which he declared over Facebook, and perfectly so, “All we ever wanted was to give you the album you deserve”. They did just that.

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At a recent social gathering, All in Colours guitarist Richards let me in on some secrets; witnessing two videos in the pipelines for current released songs, both excellent and different – fun, engaging and energetic; party! Which is exactly their philosophy – music is fun. But not only two music videos, I got a taste of some new tracks too: an R&B style number, filled with groove and funk, a spooky, insanely kooky vocalled song oozing eeriness, and one about being a hypochondriac, with an incredibly catchy chorus: “I’m waiting for the doctor’s call to find out I’m not very sick at all”. Gigner is writing a letter to himself, to help understand what is going on in his head.

Now with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire air time regularly, and personal tweets telling them to ‘party hard’ from rock legend Andrew WK, I’m really eager to see what the boys can pull out next, and you should be too.

Update: So I've just come back from a little intimate acoustic set Richards and Gigner played in our local Two Seasons shop. A shame about the turn-out, but the set was unannounced and just for fun. Blisterning lovely bank holiday sun shone down on the lads as they played impressive covers and new songs - 'Skywalker', and 'Gravedigger', which sees Gigner stretch his vocal range to the max in fabulous style, and I detected hints of, and will compare his voice to that of, Michael Jackson. You may not believe me now, but you will soon enough.

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I suppose I can’t really discuss local talent, without mentioning my close friends We Are Fiction. Having signed with the brand new record label Destroy Everything, and finally slotting together the final pieces of the debut album, One for Sorrow (God, I’ve been wanting to spill that juicy bombshell for some months), the boys drop their fourth single linked to the album, ‘The Worst of It’, this time an up-beat and fun number, more focused on happiness and that ‘PMA’ vibe, the video is simplistic and smart: We Are Fiction goofing around and playing to a white backdrop. It’s a summer banger.

Along with this, they’ve managed to secure themselves a place performing on the BBC Introducing stage at this year’s Reading and Leeds – come on, it was only a matter of time. Although, by the time this article sees the light of day, the festival would be all over and they’d have gained a hundred or so more devout followers – so you probably know the rest by now, and how they’re on the verge of blowing up...

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One of my favourite bands at the moment, Acres, recently embarked on a tour across Europe, and best of all, they recorded it all. There’s nothing more pleasing than a band that want to capture the moment on film for those who can’t make the journey, and see the sites they see – but also get that inside, behind-the-scenes footage no one would have access to twenty years ago. Split up in three segments on YouTube, we see the band cross borders, burst ear drums and break bones.

The videos certainly are worth checking out, whilst also being a little bit arty to help fulfil the ascetic urges we all have; some great scenic shots feature, along with the culture of lifestyle of a European post-hardcore fan; eerie and unique venues and surroundings along with a good live shot to add to the fray.

I caught up with vocalist Richard Morgan, gratefully taking a few minutes of his time to reminisce:

What was the best bit of your tour?
The best bit of the tour has to be the people we met. From the kindness and hospitality of the promoters and venue staff to bands, and people who came to the shows. And most certainly, the guys in Amber who I miss every day.

And the worst bit?
Worst bit was probably the issue we had with the van, but I don't want to dwell on that. These things happen.

What're your top five tour essentials?
Pants, a hat, Vocalzones, my notebook, and that first beer after a show.

You're still a relativity new band; how well were you received over there? Anyone know your lyrics?
We had a great reception over there, in Wetzlar (Hesse, Germany) we were asked to do an encore which has never happened before, and yeah, there were kids singing along or requesting songs during our set which was just an insane feeling.

What was the best foreign food and drink you had on your travels?
The food was great out there, we had vegan food at every venue and in Copenhagen we had an amazing pasta salad dinner which I don't think anyone had less than two helpings of each! As for drink, well we partied in Jena with some amazing dudes, and the owner of the place busted out this peppermint liquor called Pfeffi which was incredible. That night was just ridiculous.

Travelling broadens the mind, right? So what have you taken away from this?
I think the biggest thing I've taken away from tour is a renewed desire to take our music to people. I think we all feel inspired to write even better songs and do all that we can as a band and as individuals to get back to mainland Europe as soon as we can!

Sum the experience up in no more than five words.
Life's short, so stunt it!*

And finally, what's the one thing you feel the UK could learn from other European countries?
The UK can definitely take a lot from mainland Europe. Don't get me wrong, I love playing shows here but sometimes, when you're lucky to even get some petrol money after driving for hours to play a show nobody bothered to promote, it can feel a little cold compared to the love we felt out in places like Germany. But we're a new band still, I feel very lucky to be able to share our songs with anyone at all and I would take playing to a room full of people having fun over a pay check any day.

Preach, brother! You can check out the videos here, here, and here.

Note: *Hot Rod. Educate yourselves.

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There’s a new Deaf Havana song about: 'Boston Square'. To be honest, it’s been about since May now, and unless you have been living in a cave (how very decadently Art Deco of you), you’ve heard it. I actually had the notes for this song stored up since I first heard it played on BBC Radio 1 with Zane Lowe but not had a chance to drop its mention into a column until now. Still, it’s new-enough.

The style of the song itself is different, introducing a new generation to that folk style first hinted at through the re-release of Fools and Worthless Liars. I could see it a mile off coming; why keep the same time when you can progress to a wider audience and develop your sound, especially with who they're soon to be supporting: The Boss at Hard Rock Calling festival. That’s certainly something to make any father proud. The song itself inherits a classic Springsteen sound, something the band admits they’ve been leaning towards for a long time; it’s just taken this long to write songs in such a way.

Boston Square is a place in Hunstanton where they would skateboard as teenagers (check it out on Google maps; I used to walk around there with my family when we’d visit), and is a song about their late friend, Phil, set to be the opening track to their new record Old Souls out later this year. It wouldn’t surprise me if the entire record is full of songs leaking that grown-up, Americana vibe neither.

There are some really gripping lyrics in this song; very heartfelt and carefully crafted – time has been spent on these compared to earlier songs, but in general Veck-Gilodi has just had the time to pen some decent words and string ‘em together: “I know you met the devil once when you were young. You let him in just enough to push you out; you managed 21 years before he talked you round to giving up. We traded knowledge in our fields of expertise then we parted ways and you gave up on everything”. He mentioned in his interview with Zane Lowe that process was a lot more relaxed, and that the “songs came out more naturally”. Even reading the lines now, knowing what they mean, I feel a little bit sad. “I thought I saw your reflection, in the window of a passing car, but I guess I was wrong, all I am is wrong these days”. That’s why they are where they are today.

Update: Just before publishing this column, Deaf Havana dropped a new song and a cracking music video to go with it, 'Mildred (Lost a Friend)'; emotional and visually stunning, I honestly don't know if these boys can put a foot out of line - everything they have been doing lately is right on the mark. Old Souls and the winter months are about to go hand-in-hand.

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I feel commiseration towards Tu Amore is in order. They were whittled down to the final 25 bands out of hundreds, only to miss out at the final stages, to have the chance to play Download festival. But, if anything, it has encouraged them to press on; it’s not like they’ve been quiet, having just finished off a tour supporting Enter Shikari, and with the unfortunate departure of bassist Joe Davis, the band are acting fast in recruiting a new member to not stop this momentum.

With new tracks on the horizon, Tu Amore are back in the studio soon; something I’m keen on hearing the final results: I saw one track was entitled ‘Devil’, previewed by drummer Pickles on Instagram last month, and frontman Mackereth teasing fans with series of videos featuring soft yet hauntingly sad piano melodies.

The other night in fact, whilst out (a little bit boozed) Pickles did the classic thing of telling me they had four tracks ready for recording in the studio, and pulled out his phone, giving me the choice to listen to one of the four new tracks demoed. My eyes lit up when I saw ‘England’, knowing how articulate this song would have to be in order to work, perfect for the literary arsenal Mackereth has dose out – and it was absolutely brilliant. With more tracks like that soon to be released, they’ll be tearing up a stage at Download next year; I have no doubt about it. But to end this column, I’ll leave you with the words Pickles left me, which did have me chortling to myself: “We’re basically U2 now”.

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