During the 1990s, British vocalist Dale Shaw was a protagonist of the
gothic scene in the Pacific states.
His familiarity with the music of
Joy Division and dark-punk in general
came handy when the American clubs endorsed the genre.
Shaw led first Blood Sausage and then Bonnot Gang in the Seattle area.
In the meantime, Heavens to Betsy was raiding the riot-grrrls events of the
Seattle area. The band was simply
Corin Tucker on vocals and bass
(the future Sleater-Kinney vocalist)
and Tracy Sawyer on drums and it disappeared
after two singles and the album Calculated (Kill Rock Stars, 1994),
both emblematic of the savagery of the genre.
When (around 1998) Bonnot Gang dissolved, Shaw regrouped some of the members
and joined forces with Tracy Sawyer. They all moved to San Francisco and
started a new career.
Thus were Lies born, with an unusual line-up of two guitars
(wife Sadie Shaw and Sarah Reed), keyboards
(Sawyer) and drums (Casey Ward).
Underdogs and Infidels (Kill Rock Stars, 1999) is a dark and
intimidating album that rarely lets melodies bloom
(We All Bleed Red, Ophelian). The tendency to overdo the
depression and the zombie paces marr an effort that is otherwise honest and
Lush arrangements of strings and keyboards turn every song on
Resigned (Kill Rock Stars, 2001) into a symphonic poem.
Less bleak and lugubrious than most gothic artists, Lies value melody
as much as atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the best melodies are also the least original, like
(vaguely reminiscent of Joy Division's Atmosphere)
and especially Sight and Sound
(definitely reminiscent of Joy Division's Dead Souls).
Also, too many songs rely on baroque fugues and military music
(A Certain Surround, Spartacus).
Finally, when they find something to say, they force an
emphatic tone (as in Accident and Emergency and The Party Line)
that makes Johnny Lydon sound humble.
The instrumental effort is imposing (especially the pianos and synthesizers),
but Dale Shaw's mediocre voice, occasionally imitating Ian Curtis or Robert
Smith but way too "low-fi" compared with the band's sound, and a chronic
dearth of ideas makes it hard to rank these songs with even the minor
works of dark-punk. And the production could use some of the polish that
made Black Tape For A Blue Girl or
Lycia such a terrific sonic experience.
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