Review Summary: Liars go pop on their self-titled fourth album.
Fans and/or followers of Liars
have hopefully learned by now that to have any understanding of the band at all, you need to expect the unexpected. For those unfamiliar with the band's history, they began their career in New York with their debut They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument On Top
and were soon lumped in with the other dance-punk bands of their city that were growing in popularity at the time, despite that the album was more vicious, angular and demanding than any of its peers. Not wanting to be pigeon-holed, Liars followed up their debut with the atmospheric experiments of They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
, a "story album" about witch-hunts and a radical departure from their debut. Unsurprisingly, Liars managed to alienate the vast majority of their fanbase and score extremely negative reviews from the likes of Rolling Stone and other publications of a similar size. Which brings us to last year's Drum's Not Dead
, their most ambitious effort to date, for which the band relocated to Berlin. Drum's Not Dead
was received far more warmly than its predecessor and it even helped listeners to see They Were Wrong...
in a new light.
There's something mildly irritating about a band making a self-titled album partway through their career. It's hard to place a finger on what exactly makes it irritating, other than it just seems like something that should be done for a band's first album or not at all. What's most curious in this case is that Liars have always had more complex and thoughtful titles for their albums (They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
, for example, is an obvious reference to the executions of witches that the album is based on). And so when we come to Liars
, its title really does seem like a cop-out. In light of the album, however, it's hard to argue that they could have picked a more fitting title as Liars
seems to include everything that one could hope for from a Liars record. It's always challenging, always forward-thinking, undeniably catchy and now more than ever, full of the Liars sense of humour (see the cover of the "It Fit When I Was a Kid" single for an example).
In an interview leading up to the released of the band's self-titled fourth album, frontman Angus Andrew said of the record's songs; “They’re all, in weird ways, attempts to write a pop song, and I think this time we really sort of let out a lot of our influences, which aren’t really that crazy or weird or different...You know, we do like The Ramones, just like everyone does.”
Surprisingly enough, Andrew's statement is really the crux of Liars
. An almost radical departure from the story-based themes of the band's previous records, Liars
is, at its core, a collection of pop songs. That's not to say that progress made with Drum's Not Dead
has been abandoned by any stretch of the imagination; Liars
maintains its percussive feel and plenty of the droning soundscapes of that album make welcome appearances on Liars
. No, what's really changed is the group's approach to songwriting and its purposes. More than any other time or album in Liars' career, Liars
is all about having fun.
The band's newfound appreciation for the pop song, when paired with their hyperactive creativity makes for some very interesting music indeed. "Houseclouds" sounds like it could have been an outtake from the latest Muse
album, while "Leather Prowler" is just as weirdly atmospheric and dissonant as anything Sonic Youth
ever made. "Cycle Time" and opener/single "Plaster Casts of Everything" sound like the new Queens of the Stone Age
album should have with heavy grooves and wickedly catchy falsetto (or otherwise) vocal hooks while the synthesizers towards the end of "Sailing to Byzantium" wouldn't sound out of place on a Yes
or Pink Floyd
album. "Freak Out" is, without a doubt, the most cheery song the band have ever made, so much so that it's not hard to imagine it appearing in a children's movie or a bubblegum commercial.
If it wasn't Drum's Not Dead
that certified Liars as one of the most interesting bands currently making music, then Liars
is certainly the album to do just that. Liars seem to have approached their self-titled album with much the same goals as with all of their other records; namely to challenge themselves just as much as their listeners. Experimental as always, catchy as hell and full of odd humour, Liars
may well go on to be the band's definitive work. The obvious question of what the band will do next is anyone's guess (presumably, the band included), but what is obvious now more than ever is that Liars' refusal to become complacent is perhaps the thing that sets them most apart from any of their peers. As it stands, Liars
is an appropriately titled, highly worthwhile piece of work that the band and any of its fans should be extremely proud of.
All of the progress of Drum's Not Dead
without a hint of stagnation
Easily the band's most fun album to date
Plaster Casts of Everything
Final Rating: 4/5