Tuesday, September 4

Liars are Human After All

Artist: Liars
Album: Liars

Comments: Since their dance-punk debut, the long winded-titled They Stuck Us in a Trench and Threw a Monument on Top (which, I admit, I have never heard), Liars have put out two albums of noisy, artsy, sometimes unbearable, and sometimes beautiful progressive music and established the band as dudes trying to push music forward even at the expense of the listener. Their first foray into expansionism is the Harry Potter inspired They Were Wrong so We Drowned, which was followed by Drum’s Not Dead. While They Were Wrong only flirted with enlightenment, the empty desperation and push-pull concept behind Drum’s Not Dead (a concept album about the struggle between creativity and self doubt) made it one of the most challenging and most rewarding albums of 2006.

Following those mind-fuck albums with a more conventional rock album may seem like some what of a step backwards, for a band as obsessed with development as Liars it is the perfect move. Instead of trying to expand minds and move thoughts about what can be considered music, Liars commits itself to a genre, and works within the confines of it to change perceptions of what Rock music can be.

The album opens with “Plaster Casts of Everything” which is as straightforward a song as Liars have ever done. Lead singer Angus Andrew croons distinctive overtop distorted guitar and pounding drums, letting the listener know he wants “to run away / I want to bring you too.” By the time the second guitar melody arrives, one already knows that, even within the confines of rock music, Liars are still as weird as they’ve ever been. “Plaster Casts” gives way to “Houseclouds,” who’s programmed pop drums would sound downright contemporary if not for the dual vocal attack and ambient drone of synthesizers. Still, it’s not nearly as abrasive as it looks on paper, as “Houseclouds” is a good song to come down off of drugs to.

Not all the songs on the record are as good as the first two. No band can walk on the edge without falling off once or twice, and Liars are no exception. “Leather Prowler” plays like a flaccid Drum’s Not Dead b-side. Elsewhere, on “What Would They Know,” the band ends up mining their back catalogue a bit too much, making a song that sounds like the missing link between They Were Wrong and Drum with none of the success. Album ender “Protection” strives to reach the same cathartic grandness of “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack” and falls short, landing on the wrong side of cheesy. This may be the biggest failing of the album, in that there is never a moment where we get a look at what’s going on inside the minds of these madmen. Also, the pattern of putting the cathartic, slow song that is starkly tender in the face of the brutality of the album threatens to stale.

Still, this album does contain what might be Liars’ best song, the dance-rock-noise-mood-chant stomp of “Clear Island.” Like “Plaster Casts,” this song is a rocker, but it moves around and touches on more brilliant ideas than most bands accomplish in the span of their careers. With droning synth, jumpy guitars, and the instantly recognizable Lairs vocal drone-layering, the song both sounds familiar and fresh at the same time.

Even when making a rock record, Liars still sound miles away from everything else. On other efforts, where the band gave itself no restrictions and free reign to do whatever came to their warped little heads, Liars finds the band choosing to confine themselves to a genre and push it as far as it can go, even it rips at the seems. Despite the convention on this record, Liars are still a bunch of space cadets who make interesting music that is sometimes beyond comprehension and sometimes devastatingly beautiful.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Key Tracks: Plaster Casts of Everything, Houseclouds, Clear Island

Worth The Money: Just barely, but know what you’re getting into.

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