[23 May 2011]
There are two reasons why Glassjaw is considered to be one of the primary innovators of post-hardcore. The first is Daryl Palumbo’s incredibly distinct, instantly recognizable vocal style. The second is the group’s unique compositional style, which allowed for experimentation while still upholding the precepts of the genre. Most recent post-hardcore bands have attempted to replicate the group’s formula, with varying degrees of success. One of these groups is Los Angeles-based quintet Letlive (sometimes typeset as letlive.). The group started out in the underground, but their third album, Fake History, ignited a lot of hype about the group when it was initially released by Tragic Hero Records in 2010 (and then re-released by Epitaph Records in 2011). However, whether the album truly deserves the accolades it has received is still open to debate.
At the outset, this album is quite skillfully executed. The group performs seamlessly and shows a great deal of talent on the part of the musicians involved. The guitar work is consistent and fits within the expectations of the genre. Bassist Ryan Jay Johnson actually manages to stand out on several songs, a feat which many bassists are incapable of because of how far back in the sound mix the bass usually appears. On Fake History, though, the bass is mixed almost evenly with the guitars, allowing it to show through and even stand out on occasion. Vocalist Jason Aalon Butler clearly has the vocal chops to stand alongside his contemporaries, possessing a good singing voice, a better-than-average scream, and well-inflected spoken vocals. All in all, these would seem to be the keys to a solid post-hardcore album.
However, when the flashiness of the album fades, the lasting impression that Fake History leaves is that the album is entirely too derivative to succeed. The comparison to Glassjaw is inescapable, but Letlive seems to be less influenced by Glassjaw and more like they’re attempting to replicate their sound. There are a number of other bands that immediately come to mind throughout the course of the album as being sources for imitation, At times, they recall a less aggressive version of A Day to Remember, a less emotive imitation of The Spill Canvas, and a less progressive form of Protest the Hero. The last comparison is likely the most relevant, as Butler’s vocals frequently sound almost identical to those of Protest the Hero lead singer Rody Walker.
Thus, the original question must be revisited—does Letlive really deserve so much praise for Fake History? Without any deep examination of the album, the answer could be yes. But once the surface is scratched and the album is scrutinized with some depth, that answer quickly becomes no. In an age where progressive music is more greatly appreciated and, in some cases, widely expected from the myriad of metal subgenres, Letlive are simply rehashing the successes of better bands in their scene. Granted, they are doing so with a great deal of skill and proficiency, but that skill is too high a price to pay for such a blatant lack of originality.