Liars - 'Mess'

Demented chaos and haywire disco-punk from the LA experimentalists

  • Release Date 24 Mar, 2014
  • Producer Angus Andrew
  • Record Label Mute
  • Liars - 'Mess'
8 / 10
Heaven knows what would become of Liars if Angus Andrew ever stopped innovating. Just as scientists have suggested that sharks can never stop swimming or else they’ll drown, the LA-based trio have been determined for nearly 15 years to always keep moving on to the next project, the next idea, the next sound. From antsy-dance punk (2001 debut ‘They Threw Us All In A Trench…’) to distorted noise-rock (2006’s ‘Drum’s Not Dead’) to nervy electro (2012’s ‘WIXIW’), settling down and staying still has seldom seemed like an option.

As a result, it's hard to hold any of their albums aloft as a defining statement. But if there’s a record that sums up the spirit of Liars – that dedication to unsettling, disorientating anarchy – ‘Mess’ may just be it. Witness the devilishly daft brutalism of opener ‘Mask Maker’, which takes the electro blueprint of ‘WIXIW’ but turns it menacing and crazed, mixing a relentless, Factory Floor-like beat with a robot voice commanding “Smell my socks/Eat my face off”. Like their last album, ‘Mess’ is characterised by synths and distorted beats. But unlike the often self-doubting and timid ‘WIXIW’, it revels in its own demented chaos. And demented chaos is Liars’ forte: the squelching, spluttering ‘Vox Tuned D.E.D.’ is the crazed, twisted-metal sibling of ‘Brats’ from 'WIXIW'; and ‘Pro Anti Anti’ is a nasty banger from a dystopian disco with Angus barking “Before the fire’s out, out, OUT” over sci-fi atmospherics.

Elsewhere, ‘Mess On A Mission’ transforms from nagging, Morse-code blips into haywire dance-punk halfway through, Angus yelping “Fact is fact and fiction’s fiction” as if he’s presiding over a futuristic book-burning. The slithery weirdness of ‘Perpetual Village’ twists this way and that for almost nine none-more-creepy minutes. But it’s the pulsar glow of ‘Can’t Hear Well’ that’s most affecting: an oddly tender track with the same fuzz-drenched synths flickering over Angus’ strangely fragile croon of “You’ll never play the fantasy again”. Squeezed in amid the din, it’s downright discombobulating – but as Liars continue to show, comfort zones only exist as refuges for the unimaginative. 

Ben Hewitt

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