Where the hell did this come from?
Post-hardcore is a difficult genre to have any critical success or praise in these days. It's largely a music style where, much like punk, the later generations and offshoots just can't really touch the classic examples of the genre in innovation, style or quality in most circumstances. I mean, for God's sake, do any of you see a band like Funeral for a Friend or (lol) Hawthorne Heights putting out a record of artistic quality on par with the Relationship of Commands, Worship and Tributes, Ghostship Demoses, Full Collapses, Shape of Punk to Comes, Repeaters, and Illusion of Safetys of the genre? Can anyone remember a record of the last few years that even comes close?
letlive.'s Fake History is not that record. It's not a classic of the genre. It's not the most original or innovative recording ever made. But what it is is a damn good record and arguably the cream of the modern crop of post-hardcore. Listening to the band's previous work (2007's Speak Like You Talk and 2004's Exhaustion, Salt Water, And Everything in Between), it's hard to believe it's even the same band. Fake History is such a quantum leap of quality from their other stuff it's not even funny. Whereas the aforementioned records are inconsistent throughout, Fake History is a pretty fantastic listen front to back, showcasing a powerhouse rhythm section bolstered by a simply fantastic singer that can pretty much do anything. To say that singer Jason Aalon Butler is one of the most gifted talents in the genre is an understatement in the least. Combining the swagger, attitude and pipes of Daryl Palumbo with a sense of the melodic drama and vocal tics of Claudio Sanchez, Butler utterly dominates the proceedings.
The band, especially the rhythm section, performs masterfully throughout Fake History. Imagine Glassjaw's Justin Beck playing guitar in Poison the Well with an unrequited jazz affair and you pretty much have letlive. in a nutshell. One of the coolest aspects of the album is how the rhythms and song structures almost never repeat and constantly change throughout the song, while retaining the melodic structure and hook. Almost every song has a super catchy chorus, beset on all sides with metalcore chugs, abstract post-hardcore melodies and absolutely insane drumming. Drummer Anthony Rivera's jazz-influenced metalcore drumming brings to mind a band like Misery Signals with its slick precision and controlled intensity whereas bassist Ryan Jay Johnson shows off his love for wandering jazz lines that go off in their own melodic direction.
There are some really, really great songs on this. "The Sick, Sick 6.8 Billion" pulses with furious hardcore energy, laden with start-stops and psychotic screams, interspersed with ponderous basslines and a ridiculously infectious chorus. When Butler belts out the line "it does appear life's a bitch," you can't help but crack a huge smile at how fucking cool it sounded. "H. Ledger" has what may be one of the sickest breakdowns ever put to tape, with "Renegade '86," "Homeless Jazz" (try not to bust a move to that beat!), "Casino Columbus" and "Day 54" being standouts as well. However, all of them pale in comparison to "Muther," easily the best song this band has written yet and the biggest departure from the sound of the record. The song is their masterpiece, replete with epic keyboards and a sense of grandeur, along with a fantastic guy/girl singing duet. Any of the big guys of the genre would kill to have written the chorus on this one. One of the coolest and most unexpected parts of the record is the jazzy piano waltz that comes in the song's outro, with gang vocals shouting "Don't you cry mama, we'll be okay." If there ever was one, it's a post-hardcore ballad for the ages.
As stated before, Fake History excels in how consistent its style and quality is, but at the same time it's not up to the level of the classics. Why? Well, it takes a LOT of aspects liberally from those bands and albums, albeit tastefully. Jason Aaron Butler is telling you how much he loves Daryl Palumbo every time he opens his mouth on Fake History, and when it's not love for Palumbo, it's for Claudio Sanchez. The fact that he can emulate them to such a staggering degree of effectiveness says a lot about his skill, but it's still tribute more than trailblazing. Musically, the weakest aspect of the album is the guitarists in that they never really have a standout moment when competing with their juggernaut of a rhythm section and a singer like Butler. While they definitely get the job done, there are a lot of times where I wonder whether having two guitarists was really even necessary considering how little the two deviate from each other in their playing compared to their post-hardcore brethren. Another small gripe is that the album can blend in at some moments due to the very consistent sound and style the band brings to the table. Some of the metalcore sections and melodies can be quite cheesy, but it's a testament to their ability in that it's still a lot of fun to listen to regardless.
Overall, Fake History is an outstanding release that literally came out of nowhere to grab my post-hardcore AOTY nomination for 2010 with little in the way of competition. There are so many awesome moments all over this record it's pointless to list them. letlive. definitely have a pastiche of influences, some more obvious than others, but put them together masterfully into their own sound better than a lot of their peers. Unquestionably a band we'll be seeing great things from in the future. And really, how can you lose? Daryl Palumbo + Claudio Sanchez + Poison the Well + Hopesfall + jazz rhythms = mega fucking win.