|Release Date:||January 25, 2013|
|01. L3G3NDS||The L33tStr33t Boys||1:50|
|02. Sakura||The L33tStr33t Boys||3:31|
|03. Booth Babe||The L33tStr33t Boys||3:30|
|04. Imaginary Boys||The L33tStr33t Boys||3:28|
|05. My Life Is An RPG||The L33tStr33t Boys||3:30|
|06. Final Boss||The L33tStr33t Boys||2:50|
|07. OtakuRave||The L33tStr33t Boys||3:45|
|08. Harajuku Girl||The L33tStr33t Boys||3:40|
|09. Hikikomori||The L33tStr33t Boys||3:12|
|10. Worlds Apart||The L33tStr33t Boys||3:56|
|11. The Song Of Time||The L33tStr33t Boys||4:15|
(Note: In contrast to our typical format, song previews are located at the bottom of this review.)
Review: If you’ve never heard of the LeetStreet (er, “L33tStr33t”) Boys before, neither had I. A self-described “anime otaku band,” their popular YouTube video “Yuri The [sic] Only One” is all you need to experience to get a gist of what they’re all about. Despite their relative prominence, my first exposure to them was this newest album of theirs, L3g3nds. Let’s get this out of the way: L3g3nds, at its core, is a genuine, heartfelt work. It’s clear the group is proud of this latest opus, and, considering its indie heritage, every minute of it feels like a labor of love.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that the album is actually pretty bad.
If that sounded mean to you (it does to me), you haven’t listened to the album. There’s no need for nuance. The music on this disc is bad. It’s not good. It is unsatisfactory, of poor quality. Insufficient. Substandard. If that’s not the subtlety you expected, this won’t be the review you want to read.
Ok, ok, fine. From a purely philosophical standpoint, I do have a modicum of admiration for what the LeetStreet Boys are doing. Pouring yourself into something and then releasing it for the harsh world to judge is never easy. As something of an amateur musician myself, I get that. But there are aspects of this release that are simply not up to par – by any standards.
The vocals are the main culprit. For the kind of music the group is going for, they needed vocals. But not these vocals. Matt’s voice is thin, tinny, monotonous, auto-tuned, and not very pleasant to listen to. In terms of tone, he sounds like the vocal offspring between a kazoo and a vacuum cleaner, likely the result of extensive pitch-correction. He also seems to be unable to project beyond a moderately quiet inside speaking voice. As the excitement ramps up, his voice doesn’t grow louder so much as it just becomes more irritating. In a genre that lives or dies on its vocals, the LeetStreet Boys give a weak offering, and this inadequacy almost irredeemably brings down the entire album.
But perhaps the band’s appeal lies elsewhere? It certainly isn’t in the lyrics. Though Matt is capable of penning some genuinely good lines at times, the lyrics’ main goal, it seems, is to make you groan and roll your eyes. Littered with dubious slant rhyme, non-stop, cringe-inducing references to anime and video games, and dated, juvenile internet slang, the lyrics are, with rare exception, painful to behold. At times, they just fail to make sense. Here are some excerpts:
From “Sakura:” We triumphed over the dark lord of evil / This is unbelievable (Er, was this supposed to rhyme?)
From “Booth Babe:” But you look so hot with silicone boobs / Cheering me on as I pwn some n00bs (Ugh.)
From “Harajuku Girl:” We’ll ride the catbus / like in Hayao Miyazaki (This makes about as much sense as “we’ll fight some dinosaurs / like in Steven Spielberg.”)
From “Hikikomori:” It’s been 3 days since the con / My cosplay friends are gone (Do hikikomori, famous for being shut-ins and never leaving their home, even attend cons?)
I might have found all of this more palatable had it all been wrapped in some stellar, innovative songwriting, but that’s not the case here. Nearly every song unfolds in the same, insipidly pop-rock way that the entire album meshes together into a goopy, grey mush of flavorless tedium by its conclusion.
The formulaic approach to the music doesn’t help. Background instrumentation always consists of humdrum guitar strumming and root-tone bass plucks supported by a garage-band drum track. Without fail, a screechy, repetitive electronic synth element is included to lead along the chord progression and introduce some much needed movement and variety to the score. This substandard musical effort is a shameless facade to pump out dated anime and video game references, which, whether they meant to or not, comes off as insincere and pandering.
The sole exception to all of this, though, is the guitar. Though generally soulless when it’s a background piece, its solo segments are genuinely impressive. They’re creative, varied, and display a deft virtuosity not found anywhere else in these tracks. The 15 seconds or so dedicated to these solos in each song are refreshing, fleeting moments of musical zen in landscapes of chaotic banality. Whoever wrote and performed them deserves praise (see the “Sampling of Guitar Solos” track at the bottom of this review).
To be fair, aside from the vocals and lyrics, it’s never really an issue of outright incompetency within any individual part. The drums? Fine. The bass? Acceptable, sure. Guitar? Often fantastic. It’s just how everything comes together that problems begin to arise. You get the feeling that the band members are like great actors bubbling with potential that were given an amateurish script written by an unqualified director.
In the end, though, I feel the band can do a lot better – they just need a stronger focus on the basics. Lyrics should meaningfully appeal to listeners’ intelligence, not pander to shallow recognition of references. More importantly, lyrics should follow good songwriting; music should not be a vehicle to deliver lyrics, at least in my point of view. Once they have certain priorities in place, a lot of the above complaints just might disappear on their own.
For now, though, I feel compelled to say the following: Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ I am proud to report that I am currently alive and, indeed, feeling stronger after listening to L3g3nds.
A Sampling of Guitar Solos
If the above previews haven’t scared you off, the band has this release available for (an insufferably pompous) $13.37 on their website.