ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): THE FEVER 333 – “MADE AN AMERICA” | 2018-03-30

I caught the fever. The music industry caught the fever. The world caught the fever. Yes because, last Friday 23rd March, Los Angeles-based soul-punk-hip-hop trio The Fever 333 dropped its first official bundled musical effort out of thin air in form of a 7-track EP entitled Made An America. The highly-anticipated and extremely urgent project includes a number of scene-setting and flagship songs already previewed throughout the course of 2017, namely the violent and ambitious “We’re Coming In“, the incendiary and furious “Hunting Season“, and the anthemic and explosive “Walking In My Shoes“. While it was continuously hinted here and there across their social media footprint, Made An America also acts as compelling event marking their heavyweight mentoring from superstar producer and Goldfinger-frontman John ‘Feldy’ Feldmann and true gangsta don Travis Barker, as well as their official signing to Warner Music’s portfolio label Roadrunner Records in association with what presumably is their imprint moniker 333 Wreckords Crew.

Now, since I’ve already written at length (<– read this!) along these airwaves about the band, its inception, and the main underlying motifs behind their origination, and considering my long-standing adoration and alignment with post-hardcore/punk letlive., at this stage I’m only going to remind y’all esteemed readers that The Fever 333 is composed of singer/instigator Jason Butler, guitarist Stephen Harrison, and drummer/percussionist Aric Improta, alongside the obliging acknowledgement that the movement is about so much more than just music and entertainment. The prominent and unexpected EP, just about shy of 20 minutes in length, acts first and foremost as primary conduit for the movement’s broader objectives, encompassing elements of messaging protest and resistance, catalyzation of socio-economical change, and strong components of charity and philanthropy. More specifically, the numerical reference in the movement’s labelling (333) points to a poignant triad of meaning, as frontman Jason Butler himself explained in a recent interview:

“The thing we’re putting forward is the idea of the three “C’s” — community, charity and change. I think that kind of encapsulates the idea of giving a f**k about someone other than yourself, which I don’t think [Trump] has exhibited the ability to do, [he has] truly full-blown characteristics of a nihilist, an actual egomaniac, his frontal lobe is f**ked, he’s crazy. I think ultimately there is this large idea of putting in efforts and consideration beyond one’s own and that, to me, is, if you were to distill the message, it would be three “C’s” and those encapsulate the idea of thinking about what happens when you’re not on this earth anymore. What are you doing today to affect tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade, next millennia? There are other bands doing this and I want people to know that and we need them to speak up. We need them to feel like they are being supported and part of this. Not only are there other bands, there are other people, many people out there that feel voiceless, that feel like they don’t have a platform or anyone who has dedicated themselves creatively, politically as a representative. And that’s also what this band is trying to do, we’re trying to offer representation for people to feel like they have a catalyst for change. We, as individuals, are not the catalyst, but the message we carry with us is in fact that catalyst.”

That being said, for as necessary and praiseworthy the different manifestations of the ancillary and contingent dimensions to the movement are, Made An America is principally an artistic statement processed and delivered in form of sonic audio waves, and therefore it most certainly warrants a closer, more detailed look at how exactly it presents itself musically. As introduced above, the EP entails all previously previewed singles by The Fever 333, which appear to have remained virtually unchanged except for a couple production embellishments here and there as well as, most notably, an additional marching drum rolling climax coming in – pun intended… – at about 1:20 and some deep, distorted incomprehensible outro lyrics in “We’re Coming In”.

The latter composition, curiously placed as second on the tracklist,  is quite clearly the band’s prime introductory statement in the world’s ecosystem, funnelled by insurrectionist lyrics (“So let me tell you about / Where all my people from / We hear them sirens come and then the people run / So let me tell you about / Where all my people from / We’re living hand to mouth and dying by the gun“). To this day, and holding through in hindsight to the release of the whole EP too, the song represents the best welcoming résumé for anyone new to the project. But, while the Travis Barker-featured “Hunting Season” – although it seems like the blink-182 drum-god allegedly recorded all drum tracks on the record – channels a lot of “We’re Coming In”‘s abundant rage and angry societal liberation coefficient, it’s the grungy and catchy “Walking In My Shoes” as penultimate cut on the tracklist that candidates itself most prominently for the spot as most important and exemplary hymn for group, championed by a superbly soar and meaningful rapped verse and a waterfall-y explosion in a perfect in-your-face refrain.

Taking a step back all the way to the opening self-titled song, kicking off with a futuristic and bubbly synth motif only to be abruptly replaced by a raw drum and bass section, the track’s first lines – delivered through a successful and convincing rapping by Jason – enlist the project’s whole mission in a perfectly distilled fashion: “We are the melanin felons / We are the product of / Plunder and policy that you gotta love / Casinos, amigos on forty acres, uh / They built this shit on our backs / Made an America“. Expanding on the latter argument, popular and brilliant UGC-music lyrics and meaning site Genius provides a useful, and in my view correct, interpretation of the song’s overall message:

“‘Made An America’ is a pun on the nationalistic slogan ‘Made In America’. The phrase is often used in the context of bringing jobs back to America or rejecting foreign goods because they are inferior. Jason sings/raps about American history in which the modern nation of the USA was arguably built by the efforts of brown and black immigrants and slaves. It’s a passionate indictment of the way white America suppresses historical truths through a racially tinted lens.”

(The First Stone) Changes” at number three on the EP features Alabama-rapper and Travis Barker-frequent collaborator Yelawolf for what is in fact a pretty underwhelming moment on the project, only to be partially saved and restored by an incendiary chorus and what appears to be Jason’s attempt at a speedy and technical flow spitting a series of bars taking over from Yelawolf on the track’s second verse. Moving on, following the aforementioned “Hunting Season” at number four, is the abrasive and heavy “Soul’d Me Out”, personally the highest and finest moment on the whole EP, whereby one can’t say enough good things about this cut, from the outstanding and groovy drumming work, to the fast and violently distorted guitars, passing through arguably Jason’s best vocal performance in years and a counter-intuitive yet perfectly adhering plain-landing chorus exclaiming simple but upfront lyrics, via a vocal line no too dissimilar from a lullaby melody (“Sell me out down the shallow river / Could I hate you more? / Could I hate you more?“), just moments before collapsing and disappearing into a scratching scream chanting the song’s central topic, perfectly mocked and intertwined with the expansive meaning of its title: “Sold me out, sold me out / You sold me out to the highest bidder / Sold me out, sold me out / You sold me out to the highest bidder“.

The EP’s closing track “POV” indeed leaves the listener longing for so much more, as despite the energy and voltage levels are being kept extremely high throughout the whole running 20 minutes, the necessity and urgency that The Fever 333 are able to transmit with their work demand so much more, and are clearly to be seen only as an initial sparking moment of a much bigger narrative. The track’s introductory crunchy and jungly drums, overtaken for the most part by a minimal yet charismatic drum machine texture, take up the driving seat for a short and fulminating raging wrap up, adorned once again by Jason’s nervous and fat rapping highlighting the quintessential recapitulation of much of this initial body of work arising from the band’s movement: “Middle finger to the face, that’s our point of view“.

This standpoint is such a fiery and glorious closure to an incendiary landing onto the wider musical scene and the world of art-driven activism and protest, which without wanting to sound like a broken record, is best understood when placed as only the beginning of an incredible global community invested in socially-conscious, bottom-up societal change. This sentiment is further solidified by the realisation that the band appears to have so much more material up its sleeve ready to be offered to the wider public, as revealed through their increasing and amassing demonstrations (support slots for Nothing More, Eyes Set To Kill, and To Whom It May, as well as mighty The Used are in the books for this summer) in conjunction with a smart keyword YouTube search.

That is, apparently The Fever 333 have already written and played live several other songs like “Animal”, “Endgame”, “Southside of Inglewood”, and “One of Us”, in addition to the unbelievable performance on US national TV of “Burn It” on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly. It really does sound like amazing things are ahead for The Fever 333 – and in turn all of us recipients of the message and ascribing to the movement –, hence dreaming of another chunk of recorded material being dropped fairly soon doesn’t seem too forbidden at this point. Considering the scope and magnitude of the broader project, a new record would merely be another little brick in the giant wall for these gentlemen (in real life).

Stand up. Resist. B3 Fr33. Letting them know, there’s a fever coming…

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

THE FEVER 333

“MADE AN AMERICA”

2018, Roadrunner Records/333 Wreckords Crew

http://thefever333.com

TheFever333_MAA

 

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HERE COME(S) THE G.I.R.L | 2017-09-16

EMS started with absolutely no pre-conceived notion of editorial structure or journalistic discipline in mind, and to be fair if you’ve made it thus fair into its lifecycle I’m pretty much assuming you were able to realize this for yourself pretty quickly. Throughout about two years and a half the site has touched upon a wide variety of themes and topics, ranging from the more obvious and critically acclaimed “Alex Reviews Music”-column, to scattered and rather isolated notes and commentary on TV series, books, and even fashion brands. I guess the reason why I’m beginning this one with such a disclaimer is to try to legitimise my current inability to choose a single key topic to write about this time round, conflicting in conjunction with my lack of time and resources to split a list of different themes across multiple blogpost, as well as my very immediate need to bookmark what and why I want to say to this very specific timestamp. In fact, feel free to scratch the first excuse – as one can and ought to always find the time for the life domains he/she loves –, it’s really all about the necessity to make y’all aware of a couple things, so please be cautious that said awareness construction will materialise itself in form of a miscellaneous patchwork post.

Without too much further ado, in this writing I’d like to bring your esteemed attention to Los Angeles-based – yet universally addressing – independent lifestyle brand Gentlemen in Real Life, that has just recently released its second major run of products to the general public and boy, it’s simply wonderfully crafted. Brilliantly abbreviated in the catchy acronym GIRL to highlight its gender-neutral and boundary-less fashion approach, the alternative apparel and grooming brand was founded by former letlive. vocalist and principal gentleman Jason Butler back in early 2015, and likes to present itself to the world with the following:

“We believe the traditional definition of ‘gentleman’ is outdated. To us, it’s more than a refined look, or dapper presentation. It’s a lifestyle that transcends. Being a Gentleman is about taking the extra step to do what’s right. And we offer everyone a chance to be part of it.”

“We’re a small group of creatives and artists that make things we want to see made. And we’re committed to the fine details that we know they deserve.”

“The only way to truly endorse something is to create it yourself. That’s why we’ve made sure all of our products are designed, sourced, and manufactured in the USA.”

There’s really nothing else that should be added in my opinion to either spark or increase interest and concern for such valuable and especially honourable endeavour, which not only fully adopts and embodies the ethically/socially conscious values listed in the descriptions above, but also creates an organic and sustainable network of collaborations around their hometown of Los Angeles, CA, as documented on their extremely visually appealing Instagram page. Said manufacturing, productive, and marketing collaborators-ecosystem includes, for instance, the gorgeous graphic design brand Hate Street (H8ST) – which took care of the majority of the designs and visuals for GIRL’s latest drop – and the group of talented audiovisual producers that go by the name of Standard Issue Films, which enabled a series of promotional clips that were employed by Jason and GIRL when approaching their recent launch date on 1st September.

I hope it’s needless to say that I’m obviously not getting paid or in any shape or form compensated for writing this, for this enriching appreciation I feel for the brand truly stems from my complete alignment with both the mission and the cause of GIRL, besides clearly finding tons of delight and inspiration through the actual manufactured goods themselves. Thus, I’d simply suggest you all take even a quick look at what Jason and what he calls his family are doing with their company, as I fully believe it’s the minimum one could do when confronted with such praiseworthy and universally binding values as the ones brought forwards by GIRL.

As far as I’m concerned, at the time I got to learn about the overall GIRL project, it was an immediate no brainer for me to seek out means and ways to support what Jason and his crew were crafting, and for the record I have been doing so since the company launched their first online collection back in January last year. Furthermore, it should also be said that to me all things related to GIRL got significantly amplified by Jason’s artistic and especially musical undertakings that were going on at the same time (enter primarily letlive.), which I certainly strongly felt connected to and was able to rely on multiple levels on. Speaking of which, recent warmer months have brought back loads of excitement after letlive. tragically announced their break up earlier this April. Said excitement comes in form of The Fever 333, i.e. Jason’s brand new incendiary musical project kickstarted with the help of former The Chariot guitarist Stephen Harrison and impressive Night Verses drummer/digital percussionist Aric Improta.

The alternative-punk trio presented itself to the wider world via a memorable and unique unauthorised pop-up event in the parking lot of legendary drive-through landmark Randy’s Donuts on the last 4th July in Inglewood, Los Angeles. The band documented their incredible performance in a dedicated videoclip recalling the experience and explaining that the impromptu live performance was first and foremost:

“[…] an effort to demonstrate the power of assembly and protest. This particular event was in opposition to the displacement of citizens due to their race, choice of identity, or economic standing to remind ourselves that we are the largest piece of any community. Not politicians, not corporations, not the authorities, but US – the citizens. The people are what make communities successful. Before the release of any music we released specific pieces of information containing a location, a date, and then a message. In that message we called to those who wanted to see change and a reminder that it starts locally. On this day over 150 people showed up in a parking lot in Inglewood in support of an idea. That idea was to empower the people that serve as the heartbeat of their community.”

The Fever 333 has so far released two radically angry and raging standalone tracks (“We’re Coming In” and “The Hunting Season”), and have officially blossomed at their first “authorized” hometown live show that took place at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood on 31st August, with prestigious guest appearance/endorsement of blink-182 drumming God Travis Barker as well as A-list punk producer John Feldmann, whom the band has so far worked with for the release of its first two songs. It’s still unclear what’s next for the politically-charged protest punk outfit, although judging by the way they hinted and released both information and actual material in the past, it all seems to be predominantly short-noticed and revolving around the 333-digits hook, presumably originating in their underlying credo “B3 FR33. STAND UP. RESIST.”. Watch their space as they don’t stop repeating it: There’s a fever coming…

Before pulling the curtains on this multi-dimensionally inspired, Interweb-hosted essay, yours truly would like to consume a little more of this digitised ink to address the recent release of mighty Foo Fighters‘ new LP Concrete and Gold, out just one day before this writing on 15th September. I’m fully aware that in a recent (and upcoming) sea of hugely highly-anticipated releases, with new records out (either now or fairly soon) by the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, The War on Drugs, The Killers, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Stereophonics, and many more, there’s no way I could truly pay respect to any of those if not through a dedicated ARM-instalment (although nor am I promising this will actually materialise). Yet, very similarly to the aforementioned The Fever 333, I do like to break the rules and therefore allow myself the freedom of a couple paragraphs discussing the Foos’ recent massive album, trying to frame this discussing from a slightly different standpoint than regular ARMs so as to maintain a cautionary “apples-to-oranges” comparison basis.

The context surrounding the release of Foo Fighters’ ninth studio album contains in itself a number of fascinating insights, from the rather unconventional record producer’s choice (the bird and the bee‘s Greg Kurstin), passing through the addition of a sixth permanent group member in long-time touring keyboardist Rami Jaffee, to the juicy line-up of stellar fellow musicians who guest on the album, including Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake, and Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman. There is of course a fundamental, and arguably more important, musical layer to the whole aspect as well, with almost 50 minutes of brand new recorded running time spread across 11 different songs. Furthermore, one could also have noticed an hilarious and deeply informative radio interview touching upon a wide variety of topics with frontman Dave Grohl hosted by none other than Metallica’s iconic drummer Lars Ulrich on his Beats 1’s show It’s Electric!.

Yet, in spite (or precisely because of) all of the above highly intriguing and valid starting points for a genuine conversation on the Foos’ new album, what I’d like to stress out is an unbelievably fun, diverse, and effective promotional stunt utilized by the band. What I’m referring to is a promo video published in conjunction to the album release that tells the story of how Concrete and Gold was made in all its nuances, with more than worthy behind-the-scenes anecdotes and fun facts. By packaging a great amount of information relating to a process that lasted over multiple years in form of a 6-minute cartoonish, brilliantly animated clip, the Foo Fighters not only produced a promotional item that is quite unique and characteristic (especially for a mainstream act), but by processing the highest consumed format of digital consumption (video) they also managed to squeeze a great deal of valuable insights regarding the making-of the album that I’m sure would otherwise have been done through multiple separated elements that may even have not fit that well together. Hat’s off to the Foos thus, who to be fair have always flirted with the more comical and funny end of the spectrum when creating music videos for their songs. Pick any of theirs on YouTube to prove this point. Speaking of points, this was the last one for now, I promise. But remember to always B3 FR33.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

GIRL_Logo

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): COLD WAR KIDS – “LA DIVINE” | 2017-05-01

Hello there y’all. I’ve probably never been more distracted when drafting an ARM blogpost before and this really does come as a warning. I’m in the middle of moving house and country of residence, lord Ryan Adams just dropped a thunderous and tenacious collection of 19 (!) B-sides to his recent, critically acclaimed, and ARM-grilled album Prisoner and, last but definitely not least, Californian soul-punk outfit letlive. split indefinitely two days ago to my overwhelmingly unpleasant surprise. Yet, I really want to gift my musical impressions to the world as well in regards to San Pedro, CA-based indie legends Cold War Kids’ highly anticipated sixth studio album LA Divine, which came out early last month on Friday 7th April.

However, before I dig into the main bit of this piece, I feel I owe letlive. a short, impromptu obituary that will hopefully help demonstrate my love and affection for the band and, most of anything, the impact they’ve had on me. As I spotted their official goodbye statement a couple days ago on my social media feed it was one of those moments where the first thing you do is rub your eyes and re-read the whole thing, just to double- or even triple check that you really saw what you saw. I guess I’ve been quite lucky and fortunate in my musical fandom life so far as I almost never had to go through such a frightening realisation for the bands I love most and I will never betray or forget. Whilst it’s true that Nirvana and The Police, arguably my top favourite musical representations of all time, were actually already defunct and no more by the time I even started getting into them, other major artistic and incredible living influences on me such as Taking Back Sunday, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam or even Blink-182 are all still rocking stronger than ever. Yet letlive., who became an immense part of my life and world-perception around 7 years ago and have gone on deeply affecting me ever since, really feel like the first true, real-time musical abandonment in my life.

Letlive.’s music, energy, devotion, and lyrics all felt to me more urgent and necessary than almost anything else out there, whilst their profound carefulness for longstanding racial and social issues served as endless inspiration to say the least. Moreover, experiencing the Los Angeles-based post-hardcore band live in concert was a whole universe and life-changing occasion of its own, as I humbly tried to account for in this note. Losing them as a musical outfit is an irreplaceable loss not only for my very own artistic spectrum but for the wider alternative and counter-reacting scene as well, as possibly now more than ever the world and music would have needed their protesting rage, insurgent rebellious nature, and willingness to fight back against the establishment. With this I’d just want to thank them for having existed and wish all of the members’ very well in this hard but apparently necessary decision.

II. 2002 – 20XX. F O R E V E R Soul Punx. II._Forever

Back to our regularly scheduled programme, namely Cold War Kids’ latest 14-track effort LA Divine. I kind of have this theory where I think no good and superior art critic should ever review the same artist twice, as I feel doing so would detach them too much from that necessary fresh outlook that tends to kick in when someone is reviewing something for the first time, ultimately swallowing the critic into a subjective, self-reflecting and precedent-leaning rabbit hole that at the end of the day doesn’t benefit anyone. Thus, since I’m not a good and superior art critic myself, I feel ready to blindly omit the fact that almost exactly two years ago I already wrote – rather negatively – about Cold War Kids’ previous record Hold My Home.

The pre-release promotion for LA Divine was a rather ambitious one, with as much as four singles with correspondent music videos released in anticipation of the 44-minute long full-length effort. Incidentally, the San Pedro-native five piece decided to gradually release all first four songs on the tracklist in chronological order, paving the way with sparky and energetic lead single “Love is Mystical” on 2nd February, followed shortly after by the introspective and slower “Can We Hang On?” on 2nd March, and wrapping up with the Bishop Briggs soulful collab “So Tied Up” as well as 5-minute epic “Restless” in short succession just weeks before the full album release. Looking back, this really does feel like an interesting and perhaps counter-intuitive choice, as the four tracks aren’t too dissimilar from each other at all – that is, piano-heavy, chorus-driven bangers that all lean more than one hand in both sounds and vibe towards Cold War Kids’ previous LP Hold My Home – whilst the rest of LA Divine has so much more to offer indeed. Truly noteworthy out of the singles-bucket are the opening track, with its potent intentions in both beat and lyrics, as well as “Restless”, a rather beautiful tribute to Los Angeles and its ability to shape love relationships (“I don’t get jealous, I get free / Everything good comes back to me / It seems like wherever you are / Is just a better place to be“) all embedded in carrying melodies with a groovy piano and catchy verses doing most of the job.

As previously hinted at, this album has way more to offer and enjoy though than its singles (unsurprisingly, given that with its 14 tracks LA Divine marks Cold War Kids’ longest release to date). As our good ol vinyls teach us, this record too is shaped in such a way to be divided into four main bits/themes, sequentially separated by something close to an interlude, or skit, or even filler, depending on what one prefers to call them (“LA River”, “Wilshire Protest”, and “Cameras Always On”). For instance, the first psych/lo-fi interlude “LA River” is followed by what is arguably the album’s most exciting part, with great cuts such as the live-like uplifting “No Reason to Run” as well as the gangstery “Open Up the Heavens”, which presents some of the best vocal harmonies on the whole album and comes with irresistible badass-guitars.

“Luck Down” and “Ordinary Idols” make up the main third bit of LA Divine, with the former being a solid enjoyable indie tune and the most aggressive and sped up cut of the LP, whilst the latter arguably representing one of the dullest and most boring moments, only to be partially saved by quite sublime lyrics (“Why would you idolize me? / There’s nothing I got that you don’t / You keep on fantasizing / I’ll always be the underdog“). It follows the social media/instagram-hysteria critique skit “Cameras Always On”, which then throws the listener to the final part of the record and boy, that is one hell of a closure. Both the gentle and beautiful “Part of the Night” as well as the spacey and ambient-driven “Free to Breathe” make for an excellent wrap up with a rising and extremely inspiring note. This is true especially for closing track “Feel to Breathe”, which sees Cold War Kids at their songwriting best whilst at the same time surprising the listener with unexpected guitar arpeggios and wonderfully sung by frontman Nathan Willett.

Overall, LA Divine might as well be Cold War Kids’ most inspired and coherent album in a decade, with the band’s signature groovy and R&B piano once more dominating all major tracks and undoubtedly entailing some of the band’s best songs ever written (see “Restless”, “Part of the Night”, “Free to Breathe”). Yet, the album does come with highly skippable moments as well (see “Can We Hang On?”, “Ordinary Idols”), while here and there one can’t help but feel like some of the material on this records just sounds a bit too second-hand and recycled from previous work, above all 2013’s Dear Miss Lonelyhearts and 2015’s Hold My Home  (doesn’t “Love is Mystical” sound just like it could’ve come out of the same writing session as Dear Miss Lonelyhearts’ and Hold My Home’s lead singles “Miracle Mile” and “All This Could Be Yours”?). In other words, LA Divine could certainly have benefitted from more guitars and edgy sounds and less predictable piano-formula. It’s a shame, but nothing to despair. Cold War Kids might have been ok with rendering their home town of Los Angeles divine this time round, hopes for a switch to their songwriting abilities are high for what’s next to come.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

COLD WAR KIDS

“LA DIVINE”

2017, Capitol Records

http://www.coldwarkids.com

CWK_LADivine

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): LETLIVE. – “IF I’M THE DEVIL…” | 2016-06-26

If you’re thinking I might be focusing too much on soul-punk representatives letlive. lately you have got a point. That is, three of my last four blogpost entail more or less specific hints and references to the L.A. four-piece, but to be completely honest with you all I just don’t seem to get enough. As already anticipated within this feature, on 10th June the post-hardcore outfit released their lengthy gestated fourth studio album If I’m the Devil…, and after two solid weeks of infinite listening I’m officially attempting a verdict at its impact. I explicitly waited a while to pen down some thoughts on it because lately I’ve found myself agreeing with a very intelligent reflection by online music media outlet Consequence of Sound about how hysterical races to publish album reviews are actually bad for music criticism, something I fully agree on and try to embrace myself, not least because it simply means lack of representativity, depth, and big picture angle. To be fair, one might as well argue that a two-week span still falls within the “too early” category applying to said thinking, yet I feel that for me it’s been enough time considering the amount of plays this record has already registered in my iPod.

Some stage setting could be useful in here before jumping into break downs of single tracks of the 45-minute long album released under Hollywood-based indie record label Epitaph Records. In fact, the job has pretty much been done by the label itself, who produced and released a wonderful documentary – shot mostly in London during letlive.’s latest UK tour and directed by Ryan Mackfall – shortly after If I’m the Devil…’s saw the light of day two weeks ago and that can be watched here. The documentary takes viewers behind the scenes of the record’s making, reflecting on both high and lows with ind-depth interviews with all band members telling it all about the album’s meaning and background. Additionally, on letlive.’s official bio page Epitaph also shared very interesting insights as to where exactly If I’m the Devil… came from:

“The album is the follow up to letlive.’s critically-lauded 2013 release, The Blackest Beautiful. And the time spent between that and 2016 are defined by the band’s engagement with the griot lineage of Saul Williams and Ta-Nehisi Coates, the deaths of Eric Garner and Mike Brown, the social pathologies that led to Ferguson, Missouri and divisive redlining policies that are functionally domestic terrorism. And with those ideas letlive. is a band that aims to bring political messages into rock music again. ‘Our music is very left-leaning. It’s very clear I have a large disdain for the way a lot of systems are working and our society’s incapability to unravel,’ front man Jason Butler states.”

…concluding with the following:

“Guitarist Jeff Sahyoun explains, ‘We collectively wanted the audio realm we have spent years creating to give birth to a digestible powerhouse of modern sound.’ It is a strident, principled and heavy studio work created by 4 uniquely creative individuals known for letting their passion unfurl onstage. Those who have witnessed a letlive. show can attest that it is a connective, reactive and provocative experience that transcends the standard band performance and stage/audience dynamic. That explosive energy and fury is fully expressed on If I’m the Devil… As Butler states, ‘I feel we’ve spent years developing the idea that is letlive. and with this record I feel we have finally developed the SOUND that is letlive…’.”

The record was anticipated by three of its most violent and angry cuts, although this being meant not necessarily sound-wise but rather more in their lyrical connotations: “Good Mourning, America“, brutally reflecting on recent sociopolitical and racial disorders in the USA while at the same time shouting for revolutionary claims of justice (cf. below frame pulled from its official music video), “Reluctantly Dead”, a chorus-heavy brick of a song that, once again, takes on a range of critical topics such as police brutality and individual self-abandon, and “Another Offensive Song”, the ninth track on the album’s tracklist and no doubt its heaviest and angriest one, possibly referring back to the band’s initial two albums and more raw times. This trio of tracks pretty much sums up the record’s overall sound and feel, a rare combination of anthems railing for social fairness, sonic violence aimed at raging against the machine, and introverted punky lullabies finding comfort and catharsis in one’s most intimate and personal spaces.

This very third topic is best expressed in “Who You Are Not”, surely among the catchiest tracks on the albums – alongside the grungy and Nirvana-evoking “A Weak Ago” – presenting some of the most melodic and radio-friendly vocals frontman Jason Butler has ever delivered. Similarly personal, intimate, and mature is sixth track “Foreign Cab Rides”, a brilliant confessional slow-burner in which Jason reflects on the relationship with his wife and even contains an actual voicemail recording between the two at the beginning. Calls for social justice, equality, and reactionism against disenfranchisement come back at their shiniest with the two album closers, title-track “If I’m the Devil…” and “Copper Colored Quiet”, two songs that quickly find themselves borrowed as rebellious and solidarity-invoking anthems wonderfully wrapping up the sociopolitically-filled undertones of the effort as a whole.

A special mention is due to the second track on the album, “Nü Romantics”, which follows the climaxing grand opening of “I’ve Learned to Love Myself” investing heavily in guitars and an inherent wall of sound. The thing with “Nü Romantics” though is not only that it’s beautifully structured with an unusual and unexpected break just 1:49 minutes in (of the total 3:36), but said interruption also feels as necessary as pleasant to the ears, navigating through minimal echoed guitar sounds ramping up a multi-layered chorus launching the track into a literal explosion in its last minute. Also, as far as Jason Butler’s lyrics and vocal job go, this one might be one of letlive.’s finest, although apparently it being performed live can turn into a little play with fire, for even the smallest deviation from its stinging and thin melodic line can sound quite off and overwhelming. Yet, the overall impression from the record is that with this effort the soul punkers really did try to challenge themselves both sonically and lyrically, pushing boundaries way out of their comfort zone. In this regard, one would have to agree that most of the times this is exactly where self-development and growth can find their shelter and flourish. The only hope is that this approach is to be undertaken not just by the band but also by a too often ill-advised and ignorant world at large.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

LETLIVE.

“IF I’M THE DEVIL…”

2016, Epitaph

http://www.thisisletlive.com

Letlive_IfImTheDevil

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): LETLIVE. IN CONCERT AT THE DOME | 2016-04-23

It’s been a little while since I last told the Interweb about a live music experience within the frame of this blog’s ARM feature, thus what better occasion to make up for it than trying to narrate the inhuman and all-encompassing energy usually brought forward by L.A.-based punk/post-hardcore band letlive.? Yes, I know, despite what you’re thinking that is indeed the actual way to spell their name, one word with period, go check that out if you don’t believe it. The four-pice outfit is currently performing a short leg of European dates before returning home for the official release of their highly-anticipated fourth album If I’m The Devil…, due on 6th June and wonderfully previewed by the politically-fuelled single “Good Mourning, America“, a track that many people already define as punk’s response to Kendrick Lamar’s socially aware hip hop undertones. In fact, letlive.’s been experiencing some certain kind of hype since their sophomore record Fake History, released in 2010 and widely praised by fans and critics ever since. Not necessarily the most melodically and lyrically accessible band, letlive. has seen developing an extreme cult following over the years, largely propelled by their general avoidance of commonly traditional marketing/promotional methods, rather investing almost all of their efforts in pushing word of mouth propaganda among their existing and new fans and delivering radical live experiences for their audience.

Yesterday’s concert was my second time seeing them live, though I must say the two occasions are practically incomparable, for many reasons. My first witnessing of their disruptive and inspiring live performances was in Zurich back in September 2011 when they were supporting UK anthemic rockers Enter Shikari. I didn’t know them at the time and incidentally also came a little too late to their set as I in fact probably only got to see half of their show, obviously reinforcing the thesis that at the time I was there merely because of the British headliners. However, those 25 minutes I experienced with letlive. on stage – or rather more offstage I would say as eclectic and energetic frontman Jason Aalon Butler kept backflipping and crowdsurfing most of the time – were no short of a premonition of their promising potential, and if their live stage presence was to be any kind of a sign of their musical force on the records too then it quickly became clear that I had to engage with the band at some point. And so I did, catching up with Fake History after their re-release under Epitaph Records  and most importantly witnessing the relevance and intensity of their third record The Blackest Beautiful in real time, albeit needing a little while to grow on me. The time had slowly come to experience them live as headliners, hence changing a whole lot of perspective compared to when I first shared a room with them in 2011.

Fast forward a couple of years and here I was at their first London show in quite some time at Tufnell Park’s The Dome North of town. Unsurprisingly supported by raw and violent Birmingham-native trio Youth Man, letlive. was once again nothing short of amazing. Taking the stage with British precision at 9pm o’clock, the L.A. punks filled the small capacity venue with dances, mosh, sweat and positive energy for over an hour. The buzz and wilderness between the four walls was extremely intense, testified by yours sincerely as someone who’s always been into punk live shows and who could only physically coexist in the front rows for about half of the 15-song set, before backing up a little and resting a heavily sprained ankle (here’s lookin’ at you, “The Sick, Sick, 6.8 Billion”). The vibe was unlike most of nowadays’ gigs: almost no one bothered to pick up smartphone and record a thing (my bad for the one attached below…), the mosh pit was completely real, relentless and dope, boys and girls of all age embracing each other bro-fisting, smiling and screaming at the top of their lunges angst-filled lyrics with rare liberation. All this back backed with an impeccable performance on the part of letlive. – incidentally backed by a additional touring guitarist Mishka Bier after the departure of legacy member Jean Nascimento less than a year ago – with Jason Butler’s singing at this best on tunes such as “The Dope Beat”, new single “Good Mourning, America” and emotional encore-opener “Pheromone Cvlt”.

The band’s rhythm section was no different, it just worked perfectly without ever overdoing while at the same time arguably being the driving force behind groovy and flowy tracks like “White America’s Beautiful Black Market”,  “Casino Columbus” and, according to Jason’s intro to the song, live rarity “Lemon Party”. The whole thing simply sounded rad – acknowledging that the backing rhythm guitar is in this regard essential and much needed to complement and thrive a proper wall of sound – while the physical and visual addition of infinite crowd-surfing, stage invading and high jumping just rendered the whole occasion a true rarity. Again, this appears particularly true if compared to the majority of shows in this day and age (and I consider myself a heavy-concert goer thus with some degree of legitimacy in claiming this), that unfortunately seem to manifest themselves more within the screens of smartphones than in the body and souls of the attendees. For real though, who really looks back at all the shitty and low-fi pics and videos recorded during gigs?

However, if I were to spot a flaw during yesterday’s performance – come on, in the end this is indeed a review feature – I must say, with the exception of the aforementioned “Good Mourning, America”, I was slightly disappointed by the lack of further new material showcased at the gig. That is, with just over a month to go before the release of the new album, it’s probably not too far off to expect a bit more previews into what the new output really holds for us. In fact, I initially thought that whole reason for this short pre-release European tour was to actually present some new tunes satisfying a long-lasting appetite from truly devoted fans. Yet, nothing new except for what’s already out there. Though I guess this must have a more than valid reason, and probably I dare to say that to some degree letlive. understandably wants to enjoy as long as possible the overwhelmingly positive reaction to their latest single, which last night had Jason shouting the following in the middle of song: “Fuck, this came out two weeks ago and everyone knows all the words already!”. Word of mouth really does work for them, I guess.

This is the rad setlist letlive. performed:

Banshee (Ghost Fame)

That Fear Fever

The Dope Beat

White America’s Beautiful Black Market

Younger

Casino Columbus

Good Mourning, America

Le Prologue

The Sick, Sick, 6.8 Billion

Muther

27 Club

Day 54

ENCORE

Pheromone Cvlt

Lemon Party

Renegade ’86

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

Listen to letlive. ll.ove.

AV

Letlive._22.04