If I'm The Devil... review by letlive.

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  • Released: Jun 17, 2016
  • Sound: 6
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7 Good
  • Users' score: 8.7 (17 votes)
letlive.: If I'm The Devil...
2

Sound — 6
At their beginning over ten years ago, Letlive. were one of the many fresh-faced bands trying to capture the zeitgeist of the burgeoning emocore scene. Their first album, 2005's "Speak Like You Talk," made for a decent debut, chock full of frenetic riffs and Glassjaw-inspired vocals by frontman Jason Aalon Butler (which ended up making for a feasible substitution, since Glassjaw didn't release new music for years in the meantime). But though momentum didn't build up quickly for the band, taking years for Letlive. to release their follow-up album, 2010's "Fake History," Letlive. would catch their big break after the album caught the attention of Brett Gurewitz, resulting in them being signed to Epitaph Records.

With Letlive. snowballing in relevance in the past few years, their style has also started to grow. Along with including more soft sections to contrast their upbeat post-hardcore moments, their third album, 2013's "The Blackest Beautiful," invested more in Butler's vocals, not only loading up on more harmonies, but also showing Butler cultivate a soulful singing style to give the band's sound a distinct quality.

Taking those beginning steps in a new direction, it's no surprise that Letlive.'s fourth album, "If I'm the Devil...," strives even further for diversity in the band's sound. This primarily manifests in more lower-geared songwriting, as well as more aspects that pivot to a pop-minded sound. Partly, this is a means to promote Butler's singing even further - flaunting his dulcet tones most notably in "I'm Learning to Love Myself" and the soulful "Foreign Cab Drivers" - but this direction also instigates singalongs that come off more desperate than rousing, heard in "Good Mourning America," "Copper Colored Quiet," and "Who You Are Not," which sounds like it belongs on Fall Out Boy's most recent album.

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With only a few songs still appealing to the band's fleeting punk sound - heard in "Nü Romantics," the pop punky "Elephant," and the Cancer Bats-esque hardcore cut of "Another Offensive Song" - the fact that the span of "If I'm the Devil..." is mostly occupied by power ballads does make the album feel somewhat tedious. Letlive. do what they can to infuse some dynamic energy in their abundance of ballads, but the results are mixed. The hint-of-classic-rock titular song simmers to a boiling crest in a satisfying arc of power, and the delicate guitar melodies that tiptoe upon a meaty bassline in "Reluctantly Dead" displays a cool contrast, but other cases like the chorus in "Good Mourning America" and the bridge of "Foreign Cab Drivers" come off loud but meager, falling short of intrigue.

Lyrics — 8
Also taking a step further from what was shown in their previous album, Butler's lyrics in "If I'm the Devil..." are even more embedded in covering social issues. More than anything, Butler trains his focus on police brutality and the hot-button issue of extrajudicial killing done by police, and though he takes it head-on in "Another Offensive Song" ("Those words might get you shot / Your skin might get you shot"), he takes more pensive routes in articulating his thoughts and feelings in other moments, attempting to put himself in the shoes of a disgruntled officer in "Reluctantly Dead" ("The blood on my hands is like drugs on my nose / I've been confused with someone who's in control"), and addressing his own savage impulses in "Good Mourning America" ("'We ain't so different now, you and me' / Said the cop to the killer inside of me"). In general, Butler's lyrical mind shows more poetic growth, and along with being more convoluted in his scathing critique of the modern American dream in "Nü Romantics," his recurring theme of addressing his emotional emptiness comes in captivating juxtapositions, heard in "Who You Are Not" ("I'd rather watch you drown than admit my drought") and "I've Learned to Love Myself" ("The problem I'm seeing with being so damn empty / Is the irony when you're completely full of shit").

Overall Impression — 7
Letlive.'s recent desire to start venturing beyond their well-regarded post-hardcore sound is an understandable one, but the steps that are taken further in "If I'm the Devil..." prove to be ambivalent. While they managed to thread the needle between the old and new in "The Blackest Beautiful," their bigger initiative on ushering in a new pop-influenced sound in "If I'm the Devil..." undoubtedly takes away more of the previous qualities of Letlive.'s cardinal appeal, and though some of the new qualities the album offers are worthwhile, like Butler's stronger vocal presence and more instrumental variance, the large focus on ballads and singalongs is a change of pace that, at the very least, succeeds in making "If I'm the Devil..." the most divisive album in the band's catalog.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    RxHEAD
    "'If I'm the Devil...' undoubtedly takes away more of the previous qualities of Letlive.'s cardinal appeal" is hitting the nail on its head for me. I adored them for "Fake History", one of my favourite albums of all times - the re-release that is. I just loved their ability to switch between hardcore-chaos and more melodious parts, "H. Ledger" and "The Sick, Sick 6.8 Billion" are just incredible, really translating the energy they exhibit live. And even more catchy songs like "Lemon Party" definitely have a great appeal to them. I already liked "The Blackest Beautiful" less. While there were still songs that are just as good ("Banshee" and "27 Club" come to mind, maybe even "Younger") songs like "Pheromone Cvlt" or "White America's..." just don't do anything for me on the long run, making the album as a whole just not as appealing for me. The incredibly bad production didn't help very much either. With the new album they now lost everything that got me interested in them (yeah, the exception being "Another Offensive Song", sure). I wouldn't dare calling their new style bad or boring. It's just not for me. And it makes me sad knowing that there will never be another album of the likes of "Fake History". Letlive had the ability to do something that no other band could, they just decided to not use it anymore. BTW, if you guys DO now any album that hits a similar note as FH, please pitch that to me, I'd be willing to give it a listen.
    SSympathy
    I was hoping for some belters like "Empty Elvis", but Jason's voice and lyrics are too on point for me to be upset.
    MrMisfit93
    Love this band, not my favorite record of theirs, maybe it'll grow on me over time. Not a bad record, but not The Blackest Beautiful for me
    chrizevans
    Album of the year for me. They are one of the most exciting live bands I've ever seen and have released a third 10/10 album for me! Jason's voice is truly unreal on this album!
    intothevoid95
    Quite literally took the words away from me. Probably my favorite band and this is another 10/10. I still prefer "The Blackest Beautiful" (which is my favorite album ever, bad production and all) but I like this more than "Fake History." I think "I've Learned to Love Myself" (song of the year) and "Foreign Cab Rides" are Jason's two best vocals ever. It's deeply frustrating though that this album hasn't taken off the way it could've. I couldn't find it in stores the week it was released and none of the singles did a thing.
    chrizevans
    Oh same man, I'd say I prefer "The Blackest Beautiful" as well but it's still like asking me which of my children I prefer! 100% agree with you about the taking off thing though. These songs are so good they should be played on mainstream radio and they're not which I do not understand. If there is a god, they should be massive at the end of this album cycle!
    LockedAndClush
    I liked the record at first. Then I realized letlive. isn't a post-hardcore band anymore. Maybe Nascimento's departure has something to do with it or they just don't want to do that at all anymore, but when I stopped searching for the post-hardcore side of ll. on this record, it suddenly elevated itself greatly. I also love the mature lyrics (well, maybe except "Another Offensive Song", which is kind of stupid), a great take on most of the topics that Jason tries to talk about.
    vppark2
    Stopped reading after "Letlive. were one of the many fresh-faced bands trying to capture the zeitgeist of the burgeoning emocore scene."
    FlyingPirahna
    This could've been a great album if they took more risks with the songwriting, but sadly the instrumentals are mostly bland, most of the melodies are on the dull side, and overall it feels watered down instead of adventerous. I love this band and I hate having to say that, because Fake History and Blackest Beautiful are both amazing records.