Review by Shannon Shumaker
If I’m The Devil… is letlive. at their best, but it is also not the same letlive. that fans met with their 2010 release Fake History or grew to love even more with the aggressive 2013 follow-up, The Blackest Beautiful. That same aggression and frustration is still present, but listeners will also be met with a more confident sounding group of musicians and very diverse array of sounds from the very second that the first track, “I’ve Learned To Love Myself” comes in, all the way to the haunting and powerful ending of “Copper Colored Quiet.”
If you’re going into If I’m The Devil… listening to letlive. for the first time, you will still receive the full experience and message of the album, but I urge you to familiarize yourself with the band’s previous work to fully appreciate the transformation they’ve made with this release. “I’ve Learned To Love Myself” is the perfect example of that. The self-loathing and doubts of previous releases dissipates with this massive and soulful track as vocalist Jason Aalon Butler’s voice cracks and rings out over a stunning orchestra, dark guitars and pounding drums - “I’ve learned to love myself/I’ve learned to love my self-abandonment.” Vocals like the ones that Butler delivers on this opening track are so hard to come by, but he makes it seem easy, even cathartic. The growls, cracks and scratches are something that most people would deem as imperfections but they simply add to the soul and emotion on this track, which is absolutely jaw dropping. And that’s just the opener.
Unsurprisingly, If I’m The Devil… just seems to be the perfect progression for letlive. You won’t find quite as many wild, aggressive tracks like “The Sick, Sick 6.8 Billion” or “Renegade 86,” but the soul, emotion and even the aggression is definitely still there. For a band that is known for their chaotic live shows, letlive. is quickly and easily proving that they’re capable of so much more as musicians. “Nu Romantics” is an easy progression from the powerful opening track, a little more high energy but not lacking in the soul, and then there’s, “Good Mourning America,” the first single that the band released from the album, and this politically charged track is inspired by Butler’s previous run-in with police as well as the murders of Eric Garner, Mike Brown and and many more. “Good Mourning America” is the letlive. that listeners know and love, angry, disenchanted and groovy as ever. This track is one of the more aggressive songs on the album, and with good reason.
Following is “Who You Are Not,” which is much slower than “Good Mourning America,” but it’ll grab your attention right off the bat as well. You’ve never heard letlive. like this before, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s in songs like this and the following track, “A Weak Ago,” that the eerie-ness of the album really stands out. Co-producer Justyn Pillbrow’s hand in this release shows, as at times, it shares the creepy-ness of The Neighbourhood’s 2013 release, I Love You., and that’s definitely not a bad thing. Speaking of “A Weak Ago,” this track is easily one of the strongest on the album. Not only do the guitars and bass really shine in this groovy, almost surf-rock sounding track, but the repetitive, almost maddening message really encompasses the entire album as Butler sings, “I’m the same as I was a week ago/But everyone’s saying that I’m not/At all the same and it’s become unusual.”
If this record has a “Muther,” it is definitely the following song, “Foreign Cab Rides.” This love song starts off with eerie guitar work and Butler’s signature crooning, but eventually blooms into a bright and beautiful chorus as he sings, “Stay with me/And share my disease.” The themes on this song, especially of sickness, are recurring themes in letlive.’s music and something that fans of their previous work will appreciate having made its way over into If I’m The Devil… Stunning and emotional lyricism aside, the great thing about this song is the way it builds as well, starting off rather slow and mellow and becoming explosive and big before the end. Following the song is “Reluctantly Dead,” which is the perfect natural progression.
“Elephant” and “Another Offensive Song” are two more fast and aggressive songs before the end of the record. “Another Offensive Song” feels like a faster “Good Mourning America,” the rage from the album’s third track really coming forward in this one. letlive. have never been ones to keep quiet or hold their tongues, and this song is no exception. “Another Offensive Song” is very lyrically and politically charged, but easily some of the most powerful lyrics come toward the end of the track when Butler screams, “Those words might get you shot/Your skin might get you shot/Who you fuck might get you shot/My big mouth will probably get me shot.”
Then, following “Another Offensive Song” is the haunting and quiet title track. It’s in this track that everything finally seems to come together. I’m a sucker for the moments in television shows or movies when the title is mentioned, so when Butler sings, “If I’m the devil/Then you’re the reason/The reason that we kill ourselves/Give ourselves all away,” it all seems to come full circle. With a spectacular rhythm section, stunning backing vocals and beautiful guitar, “If I’m The Devil…” is definitely a high point on the album. Then comes “Copper Colored Quiet,” which brings things to a stunning conclusion with incredible drum work, the same beautiful orchestra from the opener and a choir of powerful voices that back Butler as he bellows, “We all came to watch your world as it burns.” letlive. have absolutely pulled out all of the stops on this track, which serves as the perfect, theatrical ending.
The great thing about If I’m The Devil… is that it can stand alone powerfully, or serve as the thrilling third full-length installment in letlive.’s captivating story. If you go into this release expecting to be chaotic like Fake History or aggressive like The Blackest Beautiful, you may be disappointed. But if you go into If I’m The Devil… expecting to hear the next chapter and natural progression from letlive., this album will not disappoint. Like Fake History and The Blackest Beautiful, this album still feels like letlive. against the world, but this time around, it’s with much more confidence, self-love and pride. This isn’t the letlive. that fans met six or even three years ago, but this is letlive. now and better than ever.
Listen to "Foreign Cab Rides" or "Another Offensive Song"
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