Liars – [Album]

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Throughout their ten-year tenure together, the Liars have chased their own muse unapologetically and, in so doing blazed their own trail to the outermost fringes of pop with little regard for whether they're going it alone. Happily, a whole team of outsider acolytes has raced to keep up with them no matter where the band has turned but, hilariously, like a bunch of dogs chasing a car, they have historically had no idea what to do with the band or what to call them after they catch up.

Don't think it's true? Since starting in 2000, Liars have been called:

  •     A dance-punk band when They Threw Us All In A Trench and Stuck a Monument On Top – but there's no doubt that was a 'give it a name' moment.
  •     A post-punk band tat hit their sophomore slump like a brick wall in 2004 with the release of They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. As a post-script, this album was looked upon more positively after Drum's Not Dead was released in 2006.
  •     A 'neo-No-Wave' band with the release of Drum's Not Dead in 2006. While the album was the best 'give it a name' moment in rock history, the album was so poorly received  that it caused listeners to look upon They Were Wrong, So We Drowned more fondly by default.

Shortly after Drum's Not Dead, listeners stopped trying to give whatever it was that Liars were doing a name and simply elected to call it “experimental rock.” That seemed to help matters  for the band's self-titled album and that comparatively positive response gave the band a little room to move and breathe, but the public had (rightly) remained suspicious of the Liars – they've proven that they can shift on a dime, and so the question remains whether the band can be trusted with mass acceptance.

In listening to Sisterworld, one has to wonder what people will say this time.

Once again, the assembled discs that comprise Sisterworld (the studio album and a second disc of remixes that make the band sound like Flaming Lips) bears little resemblance to any of the band's previous releases (particularly the remix disc) little resemblance to any of the band's previous releases but, this time, the band seems to be going out of its' way to attract attention rather than repel it. The opening moments of “scissor” cast a hypnotic trance over listeners as, with sighing background vocals and an uncharacteristically soulful Angus Andrew standing up front ruminating in a desperately dejected croon, those listening will start to feel their hearts soften up and their eyes get misty. They think to themselves, “Perhaps I misjudged Liars – or judged them too harshly, too quickly.”

First, yes, that is true. Sisterworld is the work of a very different kind of Liars – but listeners won't discover that until after the opening lull of “Scissor” is ruptured and the second half of the song kicks their teeth down their collective throat with a set of megalithic guitars and keyboards. In that opening dichotomy, the tone and drive of Sisterworld are simultaneously set; be it soft, soothing, melodic and methodical or blistering and brazen, Sisterworld contrasts darkness (be it a feeling or simply the absense of any bright spot) and light (most often provided by a searing fire within the band). By utilizing those extremes, what begins to emerge is a very dissonant and macabre song cycle, but also one that listeners cannot turn away from. While they're entirely hook-free, songs like the dissonant “Drip,” the trippy “Scarecrow On A Killer Slant,” the serene and string-laden “No Barrier Fun” and the drugged out anthems “Drop Dead” and “The Overacheivers” all paint an odd and mildly disquieting scene, but more squalid and desperate than vicious because each song remains so lean and sinewy. In that way, the only thing they're really of any danger to is every listener's mind; there is no worry of bodily harm, just that you might not look at the world the same way after listening.

As the record begins to wind down, Liars take Sgt. Pepper out and string him up in a terrifying and grisly pose on the wildly ominous “Goodnight Everything” before the band mutters its' way into nirvana with the appropriately entitled protest “Too Much, Too Much.” By that point, it seems as if Liars have mentally exhausted themselves already, so the only thing left to do is surrender to that good night and just let go; so that's what they do and it's a beautiful, perfect end. On Sisterworld, Liars have successfully extricated themselves from any comparisons they may have drawn in the past, but they've also gone one better; on Sisterworld, the band has completely left everything that characterized the sounds they once made behind and discovered a new plain. That new plain comes fully formed here, all the band has had to do is inhabit and chart it for listeners. Is Sisterworld the first document in that endeavor? Let's hope so, because it can only get better from here if they keep on this line.


Further Reading:
Ground Control interview with Angus Andrew – 01/31/08

The Sisterworld two-disc Deluxe Edition is out now and available as an import. Buy it here on Amazon .

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