Review Summary: Coasting.
Whatever your opinion of Fake History
was, its appeal was certainly understandable. Eclectic, proficient, a refreshing culmination of their influences, but most importantly it was brimming with the do-not-give-a-*** level of wild that their live performances showcase. Indeed, for its successor to eclipse it, one would expect letlive to try and be bigger still: more energy, more melodrama, but on The Blackest Beautiful
they don't, and a large part of me is beginning to wish they had.
Make no mistake, this is Jason Aalon Butler's album, through and through. He certainly has the capacity to be given such an onus, his range and exuberance are virtually unparalleled in the genre. But talent and enthusiasm alone do not a good album make, and Butler falls short somewhat in terms of direction. Sure, it's clear that there's been a concerted effort to move more towards pop stylistically, with lighter, more accessible choruses as a constant throughout the album, but the change doesn't feel organic. The choruses: transition, composition, frequently feel forced, but more importantly they constrain Butler's impressive range to the weaker, cleaner edge. It's certainly within their capabilities to pull it off: as single Casino Columbus
demonstrated in the past, and songs such as Banshee
and Dreamer's Disease
will be rattling around my head for weeks, but it's a hit-and-miss approach, with far too many tracks falling into the latter category.
Indeed, the prominent issue is precisely the “miss”: a sink of homogeneous, relatively unremarkable songs, and it's due to placing the weight of the album on the vocalist's shoulders. You get the impression that Butler's lyrics tell no stories entirely because he doesn't want them to, because music to him is a simple, frenzied mosh, which is an endearing role, but it has its drawbacks when you're calling the shots. The instrumentation does little to differentiate despite its obvious potential i.e. the spastic, Refused-esque rhythm sections in That Fear Fever
, or the haunting, sinister atmosphere that the guitar conjures in Virgin Dirt
, but these moments are sparse, almost teasing, as they typically prefer a comfortable backing, a podium for Butler.
To epitomise the artifical restrictions the band has placed, we must look to where they are not i.e. Club 27, the formidable closer. Here, letlive were entering the track with a purpose, an epic sign off to supersede Fake History's Day 54
, and it works perfectly. The furious, biting verses and effortlessly infectious chorus are there without even trying, and Butler's ape *** break down with dank instrumentation reminds one of the ability these musicians possess when they just let go. Sure, it's flamboyant and extravagant to the point of parody, but it's unmistakeably charming, and as the track ends, and with it the album, I can't help but wish the entire release had similar aspirations. Letlive certainly have a talent to realise, and the evidence is littered constantly throughout The Blackest Beautiful
, but they're not there yet. Maybe next time.