Bands have to grow, mature and change or forever be accused of recycling and being unimaginative. That’s the musician’s curse, and perhaps, even a music fan’s too, when it comes to new music. Letlive‘s breakthrough album Fake History was a slab of post-hardcore, very much indebted to the likes of Glassjaw, but while contemporaries of the band, like Every Time I Die, manage to develop and grow heavier, letlive’s latest release, If I’m The Devil, pushes them away from their roots and into ‘arena’ territory.

Opener ‘I’ve Learned To Love Myself’ is the biggest insight into letlive’s evolution as a band. Gone is vocalist Jason Aalon Butler’s hardcore scream, replaced with an impassioned sung shout that, at times, sounds too similar to Fallout Boy‘s Patrick Stump. The riotous guitar playing is now calm, accompanied by military drum rolls and theatrical orchestral violin stabs. However, the track never amounts to anything truly interesting, never quite reaching a climactic crescendo before dwindling into nothing.

Lead single ‘Good Mourning, America’ is a soulful political stab clearly influenced by gospel. A repetitive punk rock track that tries to hard to be iconic and anthemic but is never angry enough to achieve much more than a lame throwback to Papa Roach. The intro to ‘Who You Are Not’ oozes with as much hip-hop influence a punk band can have without becoming a parody of early Beastie Boys, but that soon fades, disappointingly, as it ends up sounding more like Bruce Springsteen.

It isn’t all bad though. ‘Another Offensive Song’ recalls the letlive of the past, showcasing the album that could have been; seeping with angst, a frenzy of energy and attitude. It’s bound to be crowd favourite, having the balls to follow through its clear intention of mixing the old with the new in a glorious mesh of distortion and Blood Brothers-esque screams. The biggest vocal surprise, however, has to be title track ‘I’m The Devil’. A slab of pop, with Butler’s high RnB melodies coming as a glorious change to the shouting which, at this point, has begun to grate. It’s a track that could easily be played on daytime Radio One but it still has something vaguely interesting about it.

In the making of this album, letlive admitted that they often argued about the sound they wanted. If I’m The Devil is absolutely seething with these arguments. It contains a series of influences that could have created an interesting, progressive album but instead it feels like an album of footnotes, all fighting the need for sing-a-longs and greater mainstream success. It makes for a terribly disjointed album. If I’m The Devil comes across as an obvious quest for mass appeal and, at this point in their career (whether I like it or not), I have no doubt letlive will achieve their aim with this album.

2/5

If I’m The Devil is out June 10th on Epitaph.

By Craig Taylor-Broad

Craig is a photographer more than a writer which is strange because he used to spend a lot of time telling people that he was a jack of all trades and master of none.