Release Date: Aug 25, 2017
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
A brief summary of things to be said, then: (a) unlike previous Liars albums, there’s a heavy reliance here on acoustic instrumentation, as well as the use of samples and field recordings, (b) which are signs, more concrete now than before, of yet another move to a different country, to a different environment — to the bush, to a national park north of Sydney, (c) and Angus Andrew (now the only remaining Liar after an apparently amicable if not easy separation) lives there. Still, compelling as a story’s neat arrangement of the facts can be, there are limits to what they can really tell us in any/every case. Not that this is surprising or constitutes an entire philosophical viewpoint.
In the final moments of No Help Pamphlet, a twisted and morphed voice message enters the fray. Presumably it’s from Liars’ sole remaining member Angus Andrew and directed to his erstwhile writing partner Aaron Hemphill. “OK, that’s it. Those are all the songs I really like…” drawls Andrew, “I hope that you have a really great break.
It’s been a long old road for Angus Andrew. His – and it is his now – band, Liars, have been making their dissonant noise for the best part of a decade-and-a-half, constantly shape shifting throughout its existence. Liars spent the majority of its time as a trio, although, until now, the only core members were Andrew and Aaron Hemphill, however when it came to writing Liars’ eighth record, Hemphill suddenly departed the band despite having started to make the record in Los Angeles.
Liars have undertaken more stylistic overhauls than Madonna's brassiere cabinet. Spiky post-punk? A concept album about witchcraft? The late reinvention as an art-house disco outfit? They've been there, done that and printed the bright pink T-shirt with a horse on the front. Album number eight heralds the biggest shake-up yet at least in terms of personnel.
TFCF is a strikingly atmospheric and evocative record. Thematically informed by its recording location - the Australian bush - and defined by a heady collage of the analogue and the digital, TFCF finds Liars ' now sole member Angus Andrew pushing the band forward yet again. From the murmurings of the aforementioned bush in "The Grand Delusional" to the nocturnal insect hum at the start of "Face to Face With My Face", Andrew has densely layered field recordings throughout the record, in order to paint a panoramic landscape of the environment in which TFCF was created.
Throughout Liars’ seventeen-year existence, there’s been one semi-recurring theme: loyalty. While plenty of the experimental outfit’s songs are violent, paranoid and gleefully depraved, they occasionally bring in a sort of comforting grace, usually to bookend their albums. ‘The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack,’ perhaps their most famous track, closed their magnum opus Drum’s Not Dead with the promise of “I can always be found.” Their raging self-titled follow-up concluded somberly with the elegy to a lost love, 'Protection'.
Liars make pitch-black art-rock that morphs and shifts from album to album, but always retains a core of bitter, urgent darkness. Even 2007's somewhat conventional indie-rock self-titled album and 2012's pretty, Kid A-biting WIXIW feel like examinations of the grimy corners of the soul. Perhaps it's due to Angus Andrew's strange howl, or the sharp, noisy edges of the instrumentation, or the political acidity that features heavily in the lyrics, especially on 2014's Mess, Liars' last album.
Every great artist has their not-so-impeccable sketchbooks, the half-finished doodles that never quite became their masterpieces. Liars are a band with a fair few masterpieces, but latest album ‘TFCF’ seems more like the unexpected exhibition of the sketchbook. A raw and unabridged document of the turmoil at the heart of Liars’ creative force and now sole member, Angus Andrew, the album seems more something that he needed to release than a coherent next chapter in Liars’ strange narrative..
For a veteran band defined by long-term creative partnerships, it's often difficult to untangle where one member's contributions end and another's begin. This is harder with a group like Liars, whose music, beyond a consistent use of menacing noise rock twisted toward danceable electro-pop ends, has been mostly defined by a refusal to settle into a sole identifiable style. That predilection for change is now matched by the whittling down of the band's lineup to a functional solo act, leaving lead singer Angus Andrew as the last remaining original member.
Place has long been integral to Liars' music. From the band’s origins in New York's early ‘00s dance punk scene and ‘They Were Wrong, So We Drowned's Germanic occultism to the violent paranoia of Los Angeles explored on ‘Sisterworld’, location has often tangibly seeped into their albums. ‘Theme From Crying Fountain’ takes this to its natural conclusion. A couple of years ago singer Angus Andrew returned to his native Australia and set up home in a remote national park only accessible by boat.
Liars albums have always dealt with how the human psyche reacts to and with place, whether real or imaginary, urban or wilderness. Much of this might have been unconscious, a result of the group's constant moving around the world for base and recording, from the great old East German studios of Berlin (Drum's Not Dead), rural New Jersey (They Were Wrong, So We Drowned) to the ambivalent and at times hellish portrait of Los Angeles conjured up on Sisterworld, arguably their masterpiece. Yet Liars have always had such a singularity of approach that these never felt like albums that sounded like a place, in the way that lesser groups might ape Laurel Canyon vibes, or smacked-out mittel-European Aussie transplant post punk, and so on.