Monday, May 19, 2008

Liars - Liars

Liars – Liars (5/5)

The best thing that ever happened to Liars was the one star review of They Were Wrong So We Drowned they received from Rolling Stone Magazine. What better way to promote yourself as the punk-rock-who-gives-a-fuck band of the new millennia than receive a devastatingly negative review from the magazine tailor made for the culturally shallow petit-bourgeois that choke our cities with the treeless wasteland of suburbia. Rolling Stone Magazine, who needs them. This is the same magazine that put The Eagles on the cover decades after they’re relevant, if they ever were relevant. This is the same magazine who, like most of its readers I’m sure, discovered itself during the culturally vibrant time of the sixties and has spent the last forty years skimming pop culture chum looking for the most shallow musical “artists.” This is the magazine that caters to Starbucks shopping masses who yearn for the convenience of picking up the latest Jasan Mraz, Carly Simon or Michael Bolton while simultaneously buying overpriced cappafrappalattes. When Rolling Stone published that review a very clear wall was erected and edict imposed. Play by our rules or else you don’t get in.

So naturally the Liars went on to record the equally confounding Drum’s Not Dead.

After giving Rolling Stone the middle finger twice, it appears that Liars are ready to play nice with their audience. Their fourth release, given the swanky title Liars, is their most accessible album since their debut. Of course, its accessibility is mixed with the confrontational personality of the band. One cannot help but imagine a grin on lead singer Angus Andrew’s face when he delivers the faux-metal line “sweet massacre of death” during the album opener “Plaster Casts of Everything.” This mischievous irony is heightened by the fact the momentum of the song hits a wall mid-song only to accelerate to full speed with an even more anthemic refrain. Liars make it clear that even though they’re writing actual songs this time they’re still not playing nice.

I’m tempted to dissect the album into pop songs (or at least pop songs by the Liar’s standards) and percussion experiments that recall their last two albums, kind of like how Bowie’s Berlin albums were divided between lyrical songs and instrumentals. About half of the songs are the experimental Liars where they treat every instrument as if it’s a drum. This push-pull tension works wonderfully thanks to some great sequencing. Unlike so many bands the Liars don’t frontload the album, and after the two requisite singles as album openers, there are three challenging tracks in a row. By evenly distributing the swag, they’ve made sure the listener doesn’t get bored by the half-hour mark.

Many of the catchier numbers sound like old favorites blown out through the Liar’s bullhorn. “Houseclouds” sounds like an electroclash Prince. The fuzz of “Freak Out” is reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr. The stabbing guitar and breathy vocals of “Pure Unevil” recalls New Order. Needless to say, the breadth of the sound coming from this album is impressive. At times Liars sounds like an album at a forked road. One direction is the murky swamp of experimentation obscured from the likes of lesser critics like Rolling Stone by a gripping canopy. The other path leads them out in the open with all the other indie-rock artists that have made their way onto soundtracks of quirky independent comedies. Or, perhaps the Liars are coming from the opposite direction, arriving at a point where both sides of their personality meet rather than diverge. I hope that this album is really a reconciliation between the inviting Liars and the Liars who don’t have a problem telling Rolling Stone to fuck off.

No comments: