(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)
The Liars, led by Australian-born vocalist Angus Andrew and guitarist Aaron Hemphill, formed in New York to play dance-punk music.
Their effervescent debut album,
They Threw Us All In Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top (Gern Blandsten, 2001),
was a festival of hostile vocals and gargantuan rhythms, running the gamut from the ska-like pace of Grown Men Don't Fall In The River Just Like That
to the grotesque rap-metal syncopation of Loose Nuts On The Velodrome.
The feverish and abrasive approach yields a quintessential funk-punk
dance, Mr Your On Fire Mr, slightly reggae-fied and scarred by
It isn't all fury and pungency, though. The same means are used to craft the
neurotic Nothing Is Ever Lost Or Can Be Lost My Science Friend and
to sculpt the eight-minute psychological nightmare of
This Dust Makes That Mud, a post-psychedelic jam that smoothly careens
through vocal psychodrama, tribal drumming and sampled voices before decaying
into an endless loop of shrill guitar notes (that goes on 22 minutes
but could go on forever).
Having lost the rhythm section, the Liars turned to a less disco-friendly
and more experimental sound on
They Were Wrong So We Drowned (Mute, 2004),
inspired by the witch trials of the 16th century.
Only There's Always Room on the Broom, a grotesque dance-rock a` la Pere Ubu,
harkens back to the previous album's lighter mood.
Broken Witch, reminiscent of Violent Femmes' demented roots-rock and of Virgin Prunes' tribal pagan rock,
Hold Hands and It Will Happen Anyway, a demonic distorted pow-wow,
We Fenced Other Houses with the Bones of Our Own, an ethereal chant/exorcism over thin industrial rhythm,
They Don't Want Your Corn They Want Your Kids, a childish danse macabre with fibrillating synthesizer,
the funereal closer Flow My Tears the Spider Said,
as well as the best of the brief surreal intermezzos
(Steam Rose From The Lifeless Cloak and
Read the Book That Wrote Itself),
lean towards the darker side of things, eerie, haunting and ghostly.
This is a different project from the one that debuted three years earlier,
a bit sloppy, but still an intriguing one.
The progression towards a more abstract sound, far removed from the archetypes,
continued and possibly culminated with Drum's Not Dead (Mute, 2006),
a work that blended an expressionist vein and a surrealist vein (coincidentally, the band had just relocated to Germany).
The expressionist act was bookended by
the extroverted and suspenseful overture Be Quiet Mt Heart Attack
for deranged guitar drones over fluctuating drums and ghostly vocals (that ends abruptly just when it was beginning to make sense),
and the subliminally epic closer The Other Side of Mt Heart Attack,
a ballad that grafts
Brian Eno's alien pop music onto
Lou Reed's decadent pessimism.
The ecstatic suspended chant of Drum Gets a Glimpse transitions into the surrealist
Let's Not Wrestle Mt Heart Attack (all rhythmic tension and warped vocal harmonies) and
A Visit From Drum (tribal beats, drugged whispers and random noises)
leading into the bizarre electrified landscape of
Drum and the Uncomfortable Can, scoured by trotting percussion and robotic voices.
In between the Liars pen vignettes, or, better, evanescent mirages, that don't quite seem interested in becoming music, like the ghostly fairy tale It Fit When I Was A Kid and the pulsating but otherwise uneventful Hold You Drum and the slow-motion singalong The Other Side of Mt Heart Attack; an attitude that becomes terminal with the static instrumental It's All Blooming Now Mt Heart Attack.
A sense of alienation exhudes from the anemic soundscapes that the Liars concoct for their senseless lullabies.
The Liars remain a band of mediocre musicianship (vocalist, guitarist and rhythm
section are hardly virtuosi) but with a strong vision that is evolving faster
than the musical universe around them.
The Liars retreated from their abstract peaks back towards a more earthly sound
on Liars (Mute, 2007). The album flexes its rock muscles in
Plaster Casts of Everything
(pounding drums, looping bass riff, fibrillating guitar),
Freak Out, a Cramps-ian voodoo dance,
and Clear Island (a pseudo-rap rant over a folkish bacchanal).
The spectrum was broad, as the album ranged
from the dilated Indian litany over syncopated electronic beats of Houseclouds
to the spaced-out industrial music of Leather Prowler,
from the noisy dirge of What Would They Know (littered with dissonant clangors)
to the chaotic Syd Barrett-ian lullaby of Pure Unevil.
Liars' bassist Pat Noecker left the band and joined vocalist and guitarist
Anna Barie and a drummer to form These Are Powers that released
Terrific Seasons (Hoss, 2007), Taro Tarot (Hoss, 2008) and All Aboard Future (Dead Oceans, 2009).
Sisterworld (Mute, 2010), ostensibly a concept about Los Angeles,
mostly sounds like a bag of very old tricks.
Obviously there is nothing spectacular about songs such as
I Still Can See An Outside World
that alternate between soft and loud modes.
Mary Pearson's bassoon, Daphne Chen's violin, Richard Dodd's cello and
the mournful choir are wasted.
The whining Goodnight In Everything shakes bassoon, trombone, violin
and cello, but it has no direction.
Proud Evolution exales raga-psychedelic perfumes of the 1960s, and
Too Much Too Much rings the bell of shoegazing psychedelia of the 1990s.
Finally, they inject some life into the murder ballad Scarecrows On A Killer Slant, a stomping nightmare that is certainly not
Nick Cave but at least can claim to be
real music and not just wall paper.
The Overachievers jumps around with punk effervescence, but dozens
of Los Angeles bands can do better than this.
The subdued and calm delivery of No Barrier Fun and Drip amid
eerie sonic events is what Liars is really unique about.
This is a collection of traditional songs, sung in traditional styles and
arranged in a traditional manner. The emphasis on the lyris is probably
what debilitated the whole project, turning it into a sterile studio affair.
At the peak of the revival of 1980s synth-pop, the Liars delivered their own
version of that stale style on WIXIW (Mute, 2012), pronounced "wish you".
The analog synthesizers and digital drumming that permeate every song cannot
hide the overall dearth of ideas. Once you're done with the
ambient pop of The Exact Colour of Doubt and the
gothic synth-pop of No 1 Against the Rush, everything sounds
At least Brats has dancefloor value, with its hybrid of
Moby-style thumping techno and
Ministry-style industrial music.
Then, again, dozens of bands have done that before and better.
The first (poppy) half of Mess (2014) seems to invent everything in the
industrial pop of Mess On A Mission, and its variants
I'm no Gold and Vox Tuned D.E.D.
(all derivative of the robotic ballets of the 1980s),
while the second half is devoted to gloomy soundscapes such as
Left Speaker Blown.
Liars was reduced to the sole Angus Andrew for TFCF (2017) that
sounds like a notebook of ideas for future releases.