01. Banshee (Ghost Fame)
02. Empty Elvis
03. White America’s Beautiful Black Market
04. Dreamer’s Disease
05. That Fear Fever
06. Virgin Dirt
08. The Dope Beat
09. The Priest And Used Cars
10. Pheremone Cvlt
11. 27 Club
Of all the elements that make up a live performance artist’s repertoire, energy is perhaps the hardest to translate from the stage on to recording. Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ early funk-infused rap rock was notoriously underwhelming on record in comparison to the electric presence they frequently displayed in the bars and back rooms of Hollywood’s underground music scene.
It is all the more impressive, then, when this evasive quality absolutely drips from the quivering haunches of an album like The Blackest Beautiful, the fourth from RHCP’s fellow Los Angelenos letlive. – a post-hardcore quintet who have been making quite a name for themselves as a must-see live act in recent years.
It’s hardly surprising given their past exploits; their last record, 2010′s Fake History, is a modern gem of the genre, and staked their claim to the sticky crown of vitriol and sweat vapour held most recently by Glassjaw. Soothing, seething and wide-eyed, it was so good that Epitaph saw fit to re-release it in 2011 in order that it receive the exposure it deserved.
So it’s not surprising, but it is impressive that letlive. manage to infuse their energy right across the repertoire of songs that comprise The Blackest Beautiful. Whether it be the bombastic grandstanding of opener “Banshee (Ghost Fame)“, the thrumming darkness inherent in bass-led lounge crooner “Virgin Dirt“, or the foot-tapping quality of “Younger“, it’s slathered on thick as syrup on pancakes. At times it’s obvious, particularly in the pace of the more hardcore tracks, but oftentimes it bubbles just under the surface; vibrating behind the voice of the supremely enigmatic Jason Aalon Butler.
Energy aside, the range and execution of The Blackest Beautiful‘s eleven tracks is tight but expansive; free in its exploration of various influences, but pulled off with the professionalism of experienced musicians who are supremely comfortable with each other. Without any real stand-out performances, the music forms a complete package; always evolving, adding licks and fills to keep each song pushing the listener’s engagement to the max.
It’s really quite hard to find any kind of fault with this record, unless you have a real distaste for the genre: Butler’s ability to morph between acerbic acrimony – “so get your damn soapbox-standing, high horse-prancing ass down here with the truth” – and emotional crux -”if home is where the heart is, then what do I do with this empty chest?” – is a delight; the lyrical scope of the album is varied and absorbing, critiquing modern culture, iconography and the American Dream; and the fleeting appearances of delicately used elements like the climactic, post-rocky strings the close “Virgin Dirt” adds even more edge to the razor-sharp power The Blackest Beautiful exudes at every turn.
So if you like your hardcore enveloped in kinetic fortitude, packed with emotion, and galvanised with swagger and attitude, then The Blackest Beautiful is an absolute must-listen.