“Write songs that tear through. Speak words that scare you. Stoke the fire, I dare you. Kill me off; this movement can’t be stopped.”
Los Angeles soul-punk quartet letlive. has never strayed far from the qualities that make them great on any of their past releases. They’re loud and aggressive, yet strike a chord that triggers poignancy in the listener. They tackle topics not typically found in the genre. They’re able to rally the masses—old and new alike—with spirited performances both on record and in a live setting. However, what makes letlive. such a fascinating band in the post-hardcore scene can be found above in the closing remarks of “Another Offensive Song”: They aren’t afraid to tell you exactly how they feel. They never have, and they never will.
All of this is important to consider going into letlive.’s fourth album, If I’m The Devil…—a record fueled by genuine, uncompromising ideas, thoughts and emotions, only adding to the fervor that the band pushes out on an album-to-album basis. What makes their latest output especially strong, however, is the band’s unflinching ability to take that drive to the next level. Look no further than lead single “Good Mourning, America,” tackling the systemic racism of law enforcement and the domestic terrorism toward its targeted groups. With a visceral edge and a pounding choir behind them, the band makes an indelible impression early on of what’s to come.
The band isn’t afraid to keep their sound fresh either, with Devil implementing the roots of hip-hop, electronic music and rock into their punk aesthetic. Oddly enough, while the grandiose approach of songs like intro “I’ve Learned To Love Myself” and the slow-building title track are terrific, the cuts that end up showing the most growth delve from the band’s more straightforward approaches. The endlessly catchy “A Weak Ago,” for example, pulls from Bleach-era Nirvana, while the anthemic progression of “Reluctantly Dead” employs arena rock’s greatest tendencies. Though not every choice is a winner, the vast majority of them are, showing that letlive. is capable of challenging themselves—a major contributor to Devil’s success.
letlive. have never sounded better than on If I’m The Devil… Thanks to the culmination of consistent songwriting, determined performances and some stellar production behind them, the record is their strongest collective output to date. At a time in their career where bands can often get complacent and coast, it’s all the more refreshing to see bands like letlive. breaking the mold and limitations of their genre to find their true niche. Simply put, letlive. is giving listeners the will not only to think, but to speak out, one album at a time.
This review was originally published in Substream #52.