Review Summary: Nothing less than an absolutely stunning achievement.4 of 4 thought this review was well written
Liars have to be one of the most user-unfriendly bands out there. Their dirty dance-punk debut They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top impressed critics everywhere and created a solid foundation for their future. As word of their talent began to spread and fans clamored for more, the band showed just how little they cared for people’s opinions with They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. A jarring, inaccessible sound collage with more freaky noise than Animal Collective’s entire discography, TWWSWD alienated everyone looking for more of the same. Two years after that, they released Drum’s Not Dead, a deeply challenging mix of tribal dance, noise rock, and experimental ambiance sure to put off all but the most devoted listeners.
The album’s title comes from its concept: Two aspects of Liars’ personalities vying for control. The first, Drum, represents productivity and creative confidence. The second, Mt. Heart Attack, represents stagnation and self-doubt. The dynamic between these two forces is the main focus of the album. While this is an interesting concept, the true genius of DND lies in the actual music.
It begins with “Be Quiet Mt. Heart Attack!,” a track rife with trepidation. Shimmering keyboards and minimalistic percussion create and ominous feeling of hesitance; it’s as if Liars are scared to let the listener know what they’re in for. Simple falsetto vocals and heavy repetition lull you into false security, even boredom, before one last smack of the snare. The keys stop, a soul-chilling cry erupts from Angus Andrew’s lungs, and the band launches headfirst into “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack,” one of DND’s heaviest songs. With what seems to be a heavily distorted metal didgeridoo and incessant slamming of the drums, Liars showcase the true nature of DND: delirious, simplistic, seizure-inducing primal beats. Images of long lost tribes come to mind, deep in a jungle somewhere, convulsing around a huge bonfire as they scream into the night sky… To put it simply, it’s ***ing terrifying.
Afterwards, the listener is treated to a break. The rather subdued track “A Visit from Drum” repeats DND’s trademarked pattern of going from a calm, serene song to a blaring, almost offensive one. Liars make excellent use of this pattern throughout the album. The slow, twinkling “Drum Gets A Glimpse,” with its dense ambiance and comforting bass line, leads into fast-paced percussion and deep, low vocals on “It Fit When I Was A Kid.” “The Wrong Coat for You Mt. Heart Attack” sets the stage with powerful bass and virtually nonexistent keyboards before igniting one of DND’s strongest tracks. “Hold You, Drum” employs dissonant vocals to great effect, imbuing the song with an almost palpable feeling of unease. Repetition is the name of the game here, with virtually all instruments playing one simple beat which crescendo as Angus drones, “Don’t tell no tree, tree.” The vocals really shine on “Drum and the Uncomfortable Can,” with each line containing only 5 syllables, utilizing repetition to disturbing effect once more as Angus describes the murder and subsequent disposal of an unknown man. Random blood-curdling screams intensify the aura of horror surrounding the song. “You, Drum” creates extreme discomfort, using twangy guitars and a fuzzy beat to confuse the listener. With no indication whatsoever, “You, Drum” melds seamlessly into “To Hold You, Drum,” which builds up to dizzying momentum before releasing with Angus’ nonsensical mumbles.
From the very beginning, “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack” is obviously the black sheep of the album. Sweet, simple guitar plucks lay out an inspiringly upbeat and very welcome atmosphere. Angus’ voice takes a strangely inviting sound as he says, “If you need me, I can always be found. If you want me to stay, I will stay by your side.” Sparse yet effective flares of the keyboard add to the haunting beauty of the song. It’s the single ray of dawn that gently melts the sky after a long night, bringing the listener out of the 11 tracks of pure insanity that came before.
DND isn’t orthodox. It isn’t easy to understand. It isn’t apologetic. And it isn’t anything less than an absolutely stunning achievement. Liars reach deep into our biological roots, reminding us that we were once simple, savage primates hanging from trees and swinging bloody clubs to get our next meal. They’ve revived a part of us hidden by skyscrapers and TV sets; awoken instincts long since replaced with iPhone how-to’s and microwaveable pizza cooking times. An intensely dark, primal, and beautiful record, DND stands head-and-shoulders above Liars’ other works, as well as the majority of music.