New York cool burns on a pyre at The Liars Witch Project...
Just over a year ago, Liars frontman Angus Andrews and his beau, Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, turned their back on the raging loft-parties of Brooklyn and moved out to a farmhouse in the rural nowhere of New Jersey. At the time, it appeared to be a simple shift of geography – space for the for the Prince and Princess of New York’s new wave to clear their heads. But out there, something happened – something weirder than we could have possibly imagined.
That something? ‘They Were Wrong So We Drowned’: a concept record about pagan worship in the 16th Century. Steeped in a malingering sense of murky dread, Liars’ second album collects every single column inch about fashionable New York punk-funk, piles it into an immense wicker man, and reaches for the tinderbox.
Accordingly, it starts with a thunderbolt. ‘Broken Witch’ is a maelstrom of electronic screams and upturned-cauldron percussion, Angus barking [I]”I don’t wanna be a man!/ I want to be a horse!”[/I] in bestial glee. It’s an awesome opener. But from here on in, we plunge into the wilderness. Liars’ powerhouse rhythm section – previously, something of a trump card – are gone, replaced by new drummer Julian Gross. His hollow tom-rolls and clattering snare-loops – harking back two decades to Martin Atkins’ stark drumming on PiL’s ‘Flowers Of Romance’ – form a brittle rhythmic backbone. Meanwhile, former guitarist Aaron Hemphill appears to have sacrificed his six-string, deigning instead to channel spirits through an electronic graveyard of ramshackle sequencers and piecemeal synths.
Dense and foreboding, this is a wilfully contrary record, and highly unlikely to inspire Covent Garden shop assistants to grow out their Toni and Guy mullets and start dressing like the Unabomber. But there are fleeting moments of black magic here: the racing ‘They Don’t Want Your Corn They Want Your Kids’ – essentially, The Rapture dressed for Hallowe’en – or the unholy death-chants of ‘We Fenced Other Houses With The Bones Of Our Own’. Ultimately, we’re left wondering: have Liars lost it, or found themselves? It’s been a brave – some might say foolhardy – journey. We can only hope they come back alive.
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