Liars – Liars

Liars
Liars

When we last left Liars, they had just given us Drum’s Not Dead, not only one of the best albums of 2006 but probably this decade. Its clangorous odes to “Drum” and “Mt. Heart Attack” a potent mix of pre-Daydream Nation Sonic Youth and krautrock pioneers CAN. It would be a difficult task for any band, let alone Liars themselves, to top Drum’s Not Dead. In less than a year and a half they’ve recorded its follow up, Liars. Instead of delivering something even more powerful, Liars have instead given us a good record that isn’t without flaws. Where Drum’s Not Dead was a cohesive concept perfectly executed from start to finish, Liars seems more like a collection of songs. The problem is that although all of the songs are quite good, many of them simply don’t sit well together and as such the album doesn’t ever gain momentum because the record comes off as too fragmented.

Self-titling a record that isn’t a band’s first album usually denotes a distinct and purposeful statement of ethos. Sometimes this is accompanied by a drastic change in sound or an acknowledgment that the band would like to think that this is their defining moment, at the very least a significant achievement. Liars makes a bid for acceptance with its first track, “Plaster Casts of Everything,” which is easily the most straightforward and accessible rock song the band has ever written. Its stomping rhythm and overt riffage bring to mind Nirvana by way of Wire. It’s a fine moment in their catalog to be sure and instantly refreshing to hear the group try its hand at something different.

The first stumbling block on Liars comes when it follows “Plaster Casts of Everything” with “Houseclouds.” It isn’t that “Houseclouds” is bad or anything. It sounds a lot more like newer Beck material from Guero or The Information than Liars would probably like to admit, but more than anything it kills the momentum of the album. “Leather Prowler” comes next and sounds like it could have fit nicely on either Drum’s Not Dead or 2004’s They Were Wrong So We Drowned. The distorted drum track perfectly complements the heavily reverbed guitar drone. So far, though we’ve reached the third track and it sounds more like an iPod on random than a well-planned track order.

“Sailing to Byzantium” is Liars in chill mode. Yet again, the song is great but definitely sounds like it has far more in common with “Houseclouds” than “Leather Prowler.” About two and a half minutes in the track collapses into a bizarro Yes style keyboard fill. I don’t know how it works, but it does so wonderfully. Immediately following this is my personal favorite track from the record, “What Would They Know.” It could have fit like a glove after “Leather Prowler” as it continues the theme of using liberal doses of reverb and sounds not unlike something The Jesus & Mary Chain would’ve been proud to call their own in 1985. Next up is another straightforward rock song called “Cycle Time.”

After this we get “Freak Out,” another highlight that could’ve been ripped straight from the Reid brothers’ songbook. And with this track it becomes apparent that what we’re dealing with and what we’ve been dealing with for half of the album now is Liars dividing its time amongst three distinct song types: 1)being the streamlined rock material, 2) being the low key mid-tempo tracks with little to no guitar, and 3) being the early Sonic Youth/Jesus & Mary Chain style fuzz,drone, and clang songs. “Pure Unevil” is absolutely magical but fits this third template as if it were exact science. So the rest of the album works out something like this: “Clear Island” = 1), “The Dumb in the Rain” = 3), “Protection” = 2). While “Protection” is definitely good stuff, it will never live up to the epic “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack.”

It stands to reason that the album might flow more properly were it resequenced. That being said, it’s a fantastic record and one that shows Liars in a state of flux. If they can rectify this small glitch and continue to craft material of the same caliber they’ve been releasing we could easily expect another masterpiece in the future.