Album Review: Liars – ‘Sisterworld’ (Mute)

You are about to enter a universe you've never before been to. Be prepared...

You are already living in a dystopia. The grind of work, imagined nocturnal terrors and urban paranoia. And what are we offered to help us cope? Every town centre is buried beneath the same retailer neon.

But we also have ‘Sisterworld’. [a]Liars[/a]’ fifth album was inspired by Angus Andrew’s return to the US from Berlin. Settling with his bandmates in Los Angeles, Andrew became fascinated by the contrast between the violence he encountered on a day-to-day basis and the white-toothed grin of the City Of Angels’ culture of optimism. The trio have always written albums that create worlds to pose questions: this time they ask how the hell do we find a sense of solace in the face of this horror?

The answer is formed in the shape of one of the nastiest, cleverest and strangest albums you’re going to hear this year. While the contemporary vogue in American music is for washes of euphoria and the pretty, carefree beat, ‘Sisterworld’ is an axe slicing through the neck of an ostrich that has its head buried deeply in the sand. Always known for their constant reinvention and a love of percussive brutalism, ‘Sisterworld’ is built awkwardly from constituent parts that clash against each other, creating tension and eventual violent sparks. Therefore each track represents a different element of the LA dichotomy: ‘Scissor’ has the terror of failure to save a loved one depicted by yomping riffs and [a]Liars[/a]’ first, and superbly integrated, use of strings and piano. In ‘Here Comes All The People’ violin and abstract twanging noise backs Angus’ musing on “counting victims one by one” before a suffocating riff spirals down. ‘The Overachievers’Nirvana-esque caterwaul is as scathing as its lyrical evisceration of the middle class yippies who think that weed and a bio car is the right-on response to LA’s harshness. In ‘Proud Evolution’ [a]Liars[/a] reflect the relentlessness of city life with a nodding beat and background hums. Best is the album’s astounding fulcrum, ‘Scarecrows On A Killer Slant’, which sounds like an electrical substation disintegrating and posits a scum-clearing revenge fantasy: “How can they be saved from the way they live every day?” The answer? “Stand them in the street with the gun AND THEN KILL THEM ALL”.

But it’d be a big mistake to interpret the unsettling musical attitude and Angus Andrew’s at times despairing vocals for nihilism. It might be, in these times, that ‘Sisterworld’ is too aggressive a record for ears grown overly sensitive from a diet of drippy musical platitudes, but the key to opening the ‘Sisterworld‘ is to realise that escapism isn’t just about raising arms to the god of sonic hedonism: it’s about confronting reality, giving it a violent shake and moving on. When your nightbus home is beset by phantasmagorical drunkards with beady, threatening eyes, when your ears are bashed by mendacious line managers and eyes beset by the violence of news/advert/news, then this incredible album is your passport to a better place.

Luke Turner

Click here to get your copy of Liars’ ‘Sisterworld’ from the Rough Trade shop