Deep, Dark And Devastating
It's already been said but one solitary listen to The Blackest Beautiful won't even scratch the surface as to the vivid ideological shades that it comprises.
Take the transition between opening tracks Banshee (Ghost Fame) and Empty Elvis, both are total bangers that hit with the force only best represented in this very band's live show but both are also noticeably contrasting. The former is a funk-swathed can't-not-move-your-body-while-thinking-you're-swaggering-around-soaked-in-sun mauler that feels like a cross between something you'd see performed in a suited underground soul club and one almighty punch to the face and the latter is a raging (quite literally come the end of the song) venting of everything inside straight from the school of Glassjaw, razor-sharp screams and insidious melody constantly fighting each other for focal point throughout.
The point here is that the two songs highlighted emphasise the many different hydra heads of a very unique and eclectic band, the two tracks (alongside all nine others) play into one another perfectly while being so different from each other. Resultantly the album feels like a journey through frontman Jason Aalon Butler's deepest inner thoughts and deeply stirred emotions, the palette slowly changing for each. Butler has always been a man who never holds back on honesty (both in the studio and the live environment) and this record continues the band's faith in its implementation, picking up where its older brother Fake History left off.
This album requires your deepest time and attention and if it's given will very quickly creep up as one of if not your only album of the year.
What's great about it in terms of context is that Letlive. have made exactly the right amount of progression between this and the FH era. While still sounding evidently like the Letlive. we fell in love with, the band in Butler's words have "dressed the sound up differently" and on tracks like the staggering and genuinely unpredictable White America's Beautiful Black Market and Virgin Dirt or the Head Automatica meets Glassjaw of Pheromone Cvlt (the best merging of influences you'll hear this year) you can hear a band moving forward and side-stepping any sense of devolution while remaining true to their musical identity. Inspiringly also is the sense of self-sufficiency that it carries, although enlisting the help of Chris Crandall following original drummer Anthony Rivera's departure in 2012, the band show their musical versatility with an array of distinctly different forms of percussion being put to use creatively and unusually (the hand-beats that open WABBM for example) across the album. "If life gives you lemons, give it lemonade" couldn't be more apt here.
Much like The Wonder Years' equally brilliant 2013 released The Greatest Generation it's an album that keeps getting better as you steadily absorb it and from its opening moments onward is an all-out tune fest, any song could have claim for its best number, different listeners having different favourites. That Fear Fever merges a sassy swing-kick with a hip-hop flavoured biting breakdown, Virgin Dirt much like the band's beloved hit Muther is emotionally exhausting and closer 27 Club is a Refused-driven blast that climatically twists into a scarring almost spoken word outro that leaves the album on a brutally deconstructed note, the listener on some kind of philosophical cliff-hanger. Butler lyrically addressing a range of topics from the deification of women and his inability to completely cut himself open in reflection (Pheromone Cvlt) and confusion borne from personal struggle (Virgin Dirt) to clockwork theory and ideas of religion and existence (The Priest And Used Cars) and America's corruption of corporation (White America's Beautiful Black Market), again, nothing is held back. It makes for a devastating listen in the truest emotional sense.
To dissect is to only describe though and this is an album that needs to be absorbed by you so kick it off and by the time you find yourself on your thirtieth spin you'll know exactly what we're on about.