Punk-funk-prog-rock from fearlessly oddball trio
In the Strokes-stoked New York of 2001, Brooklyn-based Liars could do no wrong. Aussie-born beanpole and frontman Angus Andrew was one half of the cityï¿½s indie power couple with Karen O and their relationship was the subject of the Yeah Yeah Yeahsï¿½ hit ï¿½Mapsï¿½.
In fact, Andrewï¿½s appearance at the video shoot after a three-hour delay even resulted in his soon to be ex-girlfriendï¿½s famous tears, such was Oï¿½s emotional state by the time of his eventual arrival. His bandï¿½s debut album, ï¿½They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Topï¿½, was punk-funk perfection, but it was the 30-minute closer, ï¿½This Dust Makes That Mudï¿½, that was more indicative of where Liars were heading.
Sure enough, following the departure of their rhythm section, they decamped to the New Jersey woods and recorded a defiantly unfunky concept album about witches ï¿½ 2004ï¿½s ï¿½They Were Wrong, So We Drownedï¿½ ï¿½ which scared off most of their original fans but cast a spell over plenty of new ones. In 2006, following yet another move, this time to Berlin, Liars released ï¿½Drumï¿½s Not Deadï¿½. It was a concept album which revolved around two characters called Drum and Mt Heart Attack and it was filled with spooky atonal noise and visceral tribal drumming punctuated by the odd moment of great beauty. Oh, and if that wasnï¿½t enough, each track came with not one but three videos. It shouldï¿½ve been a pretentious load of old tosh, but it was incredible, the sort of album that Sonic Youth (sadly) donï¿½t make any more.
All of which makes this, Liarsï¿½ fourth album, more surprising. From the moment you set eyes on the black and white photo on the cover, itï¿½s obvious that simplicity is the name of the game; there are no half-hour songs, no witches, no grand concepts, thereï¿½s not even a title, just a collection of 12 songs. And itï¿½s that last bit that is the real surprise, these are proper songs, with regular titles. Quite a few even have tunes. You could accuse Liars of abandoning all of their high-art concepts and otherworldly thoughts so they could secure their place on a tour of Americaï¿½s enormodomes with Interpol. Well, you could if this album wasnï¿½t so perfect.
Album opener and recent single ï¿½Plaster Casts Of Everythingï¿½ is a runaway rollercoaster of riffs, the shuffling ï¿½Housecloudsï¿½ sounds like Public Image Limited if they had been from Madchester and ï¿½Sailing To Byzantiumï¿½ could be said to invent punk-funk-prog-rock. ï¿½Cycle Timeï¿½ has probably necked more drugs than a Tour de France rider, ï¿½Freak Outï¿½ drags The Jesus And Mary Chain of ï¿½Psychocandyï¿½ all the way from East Kilbride to the former East Berlin and the New Order-meets-Mercury Rev closer ï¿½Protectionï¿½ can be described as ï¿½epicï¿½. But at no point here do Liars compromise their fearless, experimental approach. And thatï¿½s a great concept.