LeetStreet Boys – L3G3NDS Review

If you’ve ever listened to a Leetstreet Boys song before then you’re probably coming in with some preconceptions. Their songs are generally guitar-flavoured pop music with heavy use of anime, Japanese pop culture and gaming references scattered throughout (sometimes subtly, other times not).

Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is still there in the band’s new album, some tracks more so than others, but the album as a whole shows how much their songwriter, composer and vocalist Matt Myers have grown up and improved in all of the various areas of the band.

The album is titled L3g3nds, and it lives up to its name. When the album shines brightest it left me with the feeling that, like my favourite heroes from gaming or shonen anime, I had the ability to carve out this heroic and important future for myself in a grand world. Sure sometimes it dips into immaturity (and not the good kind of immaturity) but the album in general is a more polished and well-written affair than ever. Even after listening to it continuously for several weeks, it is still finding new ways to surprise me.

L3g3nds – The album opens with a grand instrumental track. Starting with a mix of guitars and 8-bit riffs (which are far more prominent in this album than the band’s previous tracks). Drums soon come in and build to give the feeling of a hero taking the first steps on a huge quest into unknown lands. Imagine a hero standing at the crest of a mountain, the sun just beginning to rise, with vast lands stretched out below. This is the start of your journey through L3g3nds, and it sets the tone for the album very well.

Sakura – The second track is where the increased focus on chiptunes becomes noticeable. Sakura is a high paced, upbeat song with a very strong bass drum beat holding it together. You get a real sense of the jump in quality for the band in this track. It shares several similarities to previous tracks from the band, but the increased variation and amount of layers to the audio really does make it more enjoyable to listen to. The song continues with short bursts of guitar interspersed across the powerful bass drum beat only to be joined by sweeping electro scales during the chorus.

The song is also lyrically stronger than previous tracks from the band. It’s light on references, but when they are used they feel very natural and did a great job of keeping me hooked into the song (a good example being “Believe it, just like I believe in you”). As the album’s first vocal track it gets things off to a great start.

Booth Babe – For me this was the weakest song and also may potentially cause some controversy. The first heavily themed track on the album, it’s about (presumably) a man trying to romance a “booth babe” at E3. While it might be interpreted as the singer being sexist or possessive of women, to me it felt like a parody of sorts, a satirical reference to the growing sexualisation of the games industry and the way games are sold.

While the song is amusing it’s slower paced, featuring piano and some fairly bland guitar work. The song is consistent and never really surprised me; it just felt a bit mediocre by comparison to the rest of the album. It’s not a bad song – it just feels like it could have been much better.

Imaginary Boys – I get the feeling that this is going to be the album’s big hit single, much like Yuri The Only One For Me was on the first album. Chock full of references to lots of video games and anime, the song picks up the album’s pace again and sees the electronic side of the music coming back to the forefront. It tells the story of a girl so interested in the perfect men in her favourite stories that she becomes oblivious to the person in her life who wants to be in a relationship with her.

This song is heavy on the references and generally they are strong and naturally occurring. There are some particularly impressive references that still strike me with how clever they are (see “Wish I was fair like Zack, because she’s my whole lifestream”). It’s catchy, upbeat and fires off enough references that one of them is bound to land a hit with you.

My Life is an RPG – This is where the album really gets into its stride. Going back to the opening instrumental track’s theme of setting off on a grand adventure, it’s very well written and left my inner RPG fan feeling right at home. It throws in all the right imagery to leave you feeling like you’re ready to go get that prop sword from your cosplay collection and head out to save the world. A bit more rocky than the tracks that preceded it, the lyrics set up a story that many an RPG fan has thought of at one time or another (“I had a dream where I saved the world, recurring theme where I get away from here, all a game its a fantasy, everyone is an NPC”).

Final Boss – This one is a mixed bag for me. Coming after My Life is An RPG, it starts with a deep, dark and heavy guitar line and sets up the expectation that this is the fight at the end of the RPG the last track set up (the positioning of the two tracks together felt genius). The problem is that the opening line of the song completely ruined that immersion for me. Starting with the line, “A low level hero would crap in his pants,” which in the context of a fairly serious song, really brought down the tone. It broke my immersion in the song and generally feels completely unnecessary every time I hear it. I’ve been listening to the album for several weeks but my opinion of the line has yet to change at all.

With that out the way, the track does recover very quickly and may do an even better job than My Life is an RPG in providing this sense of being in an RPG hero’s shoes. Reminiscent of the band’s previous song Leetstreet Fighter, the track gets the ebb and flow of a climactic battle spot on and ends up feeling like it would have felt perfectly at home in the 2009 video game Brutal Legend. With its near Dragonforce level guitar in the bridge and generally strong theme, this could have been the album’s flawless jewel, but that very visible scratch did somewhat detract from my enjoyment.

Otaku Rave – At this point the album goes in a slightly different direction in terms of musical style with a track that takes a more electro/dance style approach, but still with rock influences (think My Chemical Romance – Planetary GO!). The switch in style is pulled off very well and even though a few of the rhymes in the song felt a little forced, it was never enough of a problem to lessen my enjoyment of the song. When the song is doing things correctly it’s a brilliant track.

Harijuku Girl – Back to the earlier theme of songs that are reminiscent of other songs by the LeetStreet Boys, just with a higher level of polish, Harijuku Girl is another song chock full of references to various convention centric franchises. They start off a little weak, but they improve in quality and in how naturally they fit into the lyrics as it progresses. The song’s piano opening and chorus are both high points in the track, and watch out for my favourite ever rhyme in a song (the way Tentacles and Identicle rhyme is brilliant).

Hikikomori – Hikikomori really caught me off guard and while not the track I gravitate to on my first listen, it has grown on me, becoming one that I keep coming back to again and again. On first listen the song felt like it was about post convention blues, that feeling for the weeks following an event where you’ve got a long wait before your next trip. It starts off using just 8-bit bleeps and bloops rather than instruments, with a pretty upbeat sound, but ends the chorus with the word Hikikomori (at which point the music and singing get very sombre). For such an upbeat song, I found myself coming back to the word Hikikomori again and again, assuming it to be a girl’s name or something similar, wondering why it made me feel so sad to hear sung.

After looking into the meaning of the word Hikikomori the song took on a completely different tone. It turns out that Hikikomori is the name of a disorder prevalent in Japan where (often teenage boys) lock themselves away from the world and withdraw socially for a period of six months or longer. From knowing that, the song had a very different impact. The upbeat melody juxtaposed against the surprisingly dark message have created a song which feels like it’s putting on a brave face for the listener with lines like “if I could stop pretending this is glory.” Not only is it one of the best written tracks on the album, but it’s one of the most cleverly written tracks I’ve heard in a while.

Worlds Apart – While this is the penultimate track on the album, both in terms of its sound and theme, I’d probably count this as the ending, with the next track being a bonus track of sorts. That’s not official, but it should help show that this song is one that wraps up the album nicely and ends the journey taken by L3g3nds, My Life is an RPG and Final Boss. The track seems to be about the fun of meeting new people at conventions and having to leave at the end of the weekend. The thing that you may not expect is that it focuses on the positives of that time spent together rather than dwelling too heavily on the fact that you have to leave. It’s not a sad song, but a loud and energetic one about making the most of your time together. It feels like a strong way to end the album’s journey, paralleling with the song’s themes of the end of a convention, and feels like the kind of rock filled track that could be the perfect way to end future live sets for the band.

Song of Time – The album’s true final track feels a little outside of the narrative themes of the rest of the album. Instead of telling stories that could apply to anyone going to conventions, this one is about an existing character, Link from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Starting with an ocarina melody that is as close as possible to being The Song of Time without encountering legal issues, the song tells a story set during the child Link timeline, after Link has rescued Termina in Majora’s Mask. He returns to Hyrule and lives a normal life for many years, growing up and becoming an adult with a desk job. He misses adventuring, spending time with Zelda and dreams of how his life could have been different if he had made the choice to go after Zelda when he returned. With lots of romantic yet beautifully sad imagery, it left me feeling truly sorry for Link and his situation.

The song transitions very gradually into a well implemented guitar riff before later dropping back to just the ocarina. The references are subtle, never forced, and the song feels very in character for Link, almost as if it could fit in with established canon. A truly superb track, even if it feels a little like it was thrown at the end without a strong idea of how the album was going to get around to involving it.

Overall album – Having spent a good amount of time with the album I’ve come to love it. It’s a big step up in terms of both audio quality and song writing maturity for the band, but not so different to their previous material that it will scare off existing fans. There are a couple of weaker moments (Booth Babe and the opening lyrics to Final Boss in particular), but generally the album does a great job blending several different styles with a mix of instruments and chiptune sounds. Many of the tracks successfully evoke strong feelings of their subject matter and it comes together to form a very complete package. L3g3nds a brilliant album and one I highly recommend giving a listen.

What do you think? Are you already a fan of the band? Will you be getting the new album? Have you read our interview with the band? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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