As brief as it may seem, Liars have now relegated a sextet of albums that continue to defy all odds and interestingly enough, continue to defy normal logic. While always maintaining their experimental side with albums that never repeat themselves, Liars have basked in the glory of creating conceptual, cohesive albums where the importance lies in sound and not in depiction. At the beginning, with They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, the band explores tough-minded rock that is both spirited and rough around the edges, their third album found the band in a breakthrough stage with Drum’s Not Dead and its amazing scope of experimental beats and drums (it also bore the beautiful ending now glorified on 50/50) and recently they focused that rawness with a stunning décor on Sisterworld. The latter was a mind-blowing foray into the spectral side of music and the band continued their defiant outlook with continued success. In other words, well before their ‘most accessible album’ with WIXIW, the band was always a winner.
In an interview previewing their sixth studio effort, WIXIW (pronounced “wish you”), lead songwriter Angus Andrew admitted that while the new album explores the realm of electronic music freely, there is always a moment of clarity where the general sonic scope takes over. Remarking about the use of electronics and moving into that spectrum, Andrew noted, “Experienced electronic artists would probably save some presets or whatever, but I never did that when I was working, because I get excited about things and move on.” Fortunately, the music behind the album depicts exactly what all other Liars’ albums have been: excellent. The band took to the challenge of recording electronic music with precarious care – they never implied they knew the style well before but instead, created their flourishing brand of Liars’ rock with elements taken from synth-pads and keyboards. The end result is an album shining as a typical Liars’ record with sounds synonymous with the band and still, an electronic ambience throughout.
The album tackles moods of doubt and lingering thoughts on closeness with careful charm; the opening song, “The Exact Colour of Doubt,” casts a cloudy demeanor over the album with an entrance that is lulling and mesmerizing. Andrew has stated that the album was all about conveying sounds one could take hold of and instead of reaching for something ‘poppy,’ the aim is much greater. The song places a soft-tempered tom drum beat around the atmospheric blend of synths and it acts as a spectacular lull to the album’s shades of darkness. Immediately, with the next song, “Octagon,” the music relishes in Liars’ standby: pounding drums with Andrew’s magnetic voice. Almost like a chant and the beats acting as the pummeling, driving force, it’s the opposite side of the spectrum from what the opener revealed and thus, showcasing depth and skill unlike many others.
The album explores dissimilar styles of electronic music with songs that both ache and bristle with careful attention to detail. A song like “A Ring on Every Finger” should come as little surprise, especially when realizing how similar it is to something like “Houseclouds.” This sort of Beck-like sounds with a chugging bass and moving synth line is well received and of course, superbly crafted. Then, on the title track, the band introduces a menacing organ and dissonant chords that shroud the almost light feel of the electronics, restoring the dark themes Liars are known for. Even on the pulsating “Brats,” with its punky, fast-paced feel, the electronics drive a persistent pace that is never without skill or rapid motion.
While the band ensured that not much was revealed prior to the release of WIXIW, the choice of the lead single, “No. 1 Against the Rush,” was a carefully thought out idea in that they felt it was somewhere in between entirely electronic and still, Liars-esque. And although they may have realized now that the song is not only resoundingly amazing but also a strong new sound to their repertoire, there is little denying the craft behind it. In the end, Liars have created another standout album that while dissimilar from the rest, is nothing short of amazing and nothing of a surprise from such an exceptional band.