Release Date: Mar 25, 2014
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
“Take my pants off, use my socks, smell my socks, eat my face off, eat my face off…” Well, what do you know? Liars are back. Everyone’s favourite NY deviants have returned with not only their best album, but the one most likely to get your ass out of your seat and onto the dark, sticky dancefloor at 4AM when you really should be in the cab home. WIXIW was a trip – a true Mute album, all pristine, sterile electronics and processed beats that screamed ‘new direction’.
Tangled wads of multi-colored thickly gauged yarn have been strewn across every promotional opportunity enjoyed by Liars’ latest album, Mess, a vibrant medium that’s worked in tandem with the album’s electro-pop’d propulsions. Since moving to Los Angeles the NYC art punk mutations Liars had cultivated have been largely abandoned, surrealist West Coast glam’d synthetics inspiring new means of re-fracturing their already abstract outlook. If 2012’s WIXIW documented a relatively familiar, albeit shaky, transition into electronic music from the guitar-riddled fringe, a tradition exercised by more than a couple punk-to-new wave acts in the past, Mess confirms that the band is finally comfortable, faraway from the deranged fantasies Los Angeles had inspired for 2010’s Sisterworld.
A restlessness has always underpinned Liars’ approach. Throughout their career, so far clocking in at seven full-lengths, they have hopped from genre to genre which such verve and consistency that with each new album, no-one is really sure what to expect. Indeed, the only real expectation people have of Liars nowadays is that they will be headscratchingly good.
￼After 13 years and six increasingly dissimilar records, the most surprising thing Liars could possibly do would be to repeat themselves. And so they have. Mess, their seventh, unfolds within the same inky-black cyberpunk world the now-LA- based trio forged with 2012’s WIXIW; synths moan and shudder in agony, fake hands clap in perfect time, shrill organs sit down at the top of the mix and drip into the album’s gears, and it’s all tempered by the same ambiguously aimed menace that has become the group’s defining aesthetic mood.
More than many other bands, Liars are guided by an overall aesthetic rather than dedication to any particular sound. The tension and contrast between their wicked sense of humor and their wounded introspection is at the heart of their music, but the ways they choose to express this change from album to album. On WIXIW, Liars cocooned their vulnerable songs in subtle electronic textures -- with the notable exception of "Brats"' laser-guided disco-punk, which feels like a rough template for the warped dance music excursions they undertake on Mess.
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.
Taking the damaged electronic approach from WIXIW further and deeper, Liars have created an album of themes that would suit the runways of some post-apocalyptic version of Fashion Week. Opener "Mask Maker" is a nasty suturing of Giorgio Moroder, a possessed Speak & Spell and Seasons in the Abyss.And so it goes. Whereas Angus Andrew voiced the heartbroken claustrophobe in clubland last time around, here he and his trio have embraced the black light bacchanal.
Full of dense, droning industrial soundscapes beset by booming bass beats, Mess may be Liars' darkest album, which is saying a lot for a band so well versed in cultic, gloomy theatrics. Opening with the barked commands of a sinister robotic voice on “Mask Maker,” this is the work of a group whose descent into electronic experimentation has allowed access to increasingly hellish, alienating terrain. That opening sets up a conflict between organic and electronic elements, the traditional instrumentation of earlier guitar and feedback-oriented efforts versus ever-more strident machine-produced sounds, and what follows isn't much of a contest, with the forcefully artificial prevailing across this stifling but ultimately impressive album.
‘Expect the unexpected’, surely the only useful approach when anticipating anything Liars produce. Effortlessly changing gear, scene, style, genre, anything they can take their hand to they can wipe away and recreate with the other hand. The trio’s constant metamorphosis is somewhere between a natural reflex and an indelible signature of the band.Already Liars have reached their seventh album.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. History is littered with artists who vacate comfort to embrace the unknown. Whether it's the barren sugar factories of Williamsburg, the swallowing catharsis of Berlin in the mid-2000s, or the sharp mystique of Los Angeles' open roads, Liars are a group who, in the past, have lived by the law of finding inspiration in different habitats.
Liars have yet to take over the world, or even headline Brixton Academy, which is kind of absurd – I’ve never heard a bad word said against them, they bash out a critically acclaimed album every two years like clockwork, they get a decent amount of press, they're perennially hip, in Drum's Not Dead they have a Bona Fide Modern Indie Classic to their name, and for all their moments of glorious atonality, anybody who says they don’t possess bangers is a fool. For all that, their popularity has stubbornly remained on the large side of culty. Their constant shifts in musical direction must surely be partly of it, resulting in something of a one-in-one-out policy for fans, whereby the New Rock Revolution hipsters who dug They Threw Us All In a Trench and Stuck a Monument On Top were terrified by They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, the Drum's Not Dead crowd were freaked out by the snarling rock of Liars, and so on and so forth.
Liars are, in essence, a rock band. A facile statement, perhaps, but it’s a point easily lost for a band that regularly pushes against what rock sounds like, how it’s supposed to make you feel, and how many understood rules of listenability you can break without losing an audience. But if you dig past the abrasive surfaces and conceptual concerns governing most of their releases, Liars are just three guys bashing away on their instruments (figuratively, of late), writing compositions that are, with a few exceptions, between three and five minutes long, and airing their grievances in an identifiably “rock” way.
Liars have been one of the 21st century’s most confounding and consistent bands because they make two kinds of albums: ones where they don’t know what they’re doing, and ones where they’ve figured it out. Since arriving in 2001 as inside operatives bent on dance-punk’s destruction, their career has alternated bizarre and divisive left turns with records that vindicated their artistic vision. This risk/reward dynamic is even more pronounced with the release of their seventh album, Mess.
This globe-trotting trio have an uncommonly diverse dossier: over seven albums, Liars have ranged from dance-punk chants to prog gloom to primal-rock action. They've never made the same album twice – and they've never made a dull one. Here, they reach for a macabre death-disco vibe. The first half has dance beats, even evoking the B 52's in the vintage synth bop of "Mess on a Mission" – the first Liars song anyone could describe as "perky." But the quieter second half gets darker and stranger, with Angus Andrew's distorted squawks weaving in and out of the mix for the claustrophobic creep show "Left Speaker Blown." .
Liars can often be guilty of over-thinking. The mechanics behind their varying but normally invigorating music can overshadow any pleasure derived from it; what should be downright moshworthy riffs or danceable rhythms can end up feeling too planned, too orchestrated. But, ever contrary, they’ve included in the limited vacuum-sealed vinyl version of Mess, their seventh album, a batch of neon-coloured paper streamers and, well, general clutter.
"Take my pants off, use my socks, smell my socks, eat my face off," a pitch-shifted voice commands in the opening moments of Liars' seventh LP. Two years after the post-punk group detoured into highly textured, cerebral electronic music on WIXIW, the S&M imperatives seem to indicate that the trio is in the mood to party. For that record, Liars worked with Mute boss Daniel Miller, but self-produced Mess directly evokes the synth-pop for which the label is best known, particularly its opening volley of bombastic electro numbers.
In recent interviews, Liars’ Angus Andrew has spoken about the duality of how a mess can be perceived—beauty to some, disaster to others—and how that conceptual exercise informed the L.A. band’s seventh LP. It’s there in the cover art and the album title, right down to the way Mess can, well, feel messy, like two musically disparate EPs were shoved together for fear of missing a deadline.
On the fifth track of their seventh album, Liars program a synthesizer to mimic the rhythm of an acoustic guitar being strummed. Electricity roils beneath Angus Andrew’s filtered voice. There’s no percussion. It is the quietest moment on Mess, and also the loveliest, with roots in “The Other Side of Mt.
Liars have worn their negation through like radioactive stocking made of kelp and spiderweb. The refinement that’s supposed to come with a decade-plus as a band with a recognizable sound eludes these guys. Unless the refinement in this case pertains to limitation. As head-noddingly voidal and sexy pre-party anemic as their music continues to be on Mess, Liars continue to restrict themselves to a strict diet of melodic uniformity.
opinion byBRENDAN FRANK Liars have a pretty good thing going. Every album they release is a blind taste test defined by the complete discontinuity from what’s come before it. Over seven albums, they’ve never felt the need to repeat themselves, sucking dance-punk, noise rock, electronica and a massive amount of general strangeness into the inlet of their fucked up music-making machine.
The creative electronic, noise trio makes a triumphant return with their seventh full length, Mess. Liars continues to wade in the melancholic, electro-dance-punk waters as they amp up the noise even more. Lead singer, Angus Andrew vocals are nearly inaudible for the entire album as they are processed through sound effects but this factor adds to the multiple layers of each song and fits the dirty, gritty feel of the appropriately named Mess.
Liars – Mess (Mute)Like Björk (and The Doors and Can and a lot of other artists), the members of Liars are making a career out of musical reinvention (while more or less, not alienating their audience, though they may have lost a few Dusted reviewers when casting off the rhythm section on their dance punk debut, They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument). In the same way that you can’t convince teenagers they’re in a phase when clothes, hair and attitudes drastically amend, the band focuses really hard on whichever stage of the proud evolution they find themselves, using the right tools and behaviors to pass themselves off as legit – and if it’s just an act, Liars is the Daniel Day-Lewis of musicians, as everything they do comes off as passionate and authentic. Seven albums in with Mess, Liars (just multi-instrumentalist Aaron Hemphill and multi-instrumentalist / singer / producer Angus Andrews on this one, drummer Julian Gross relegated to art-work and design until the tour) is keeping with the “no guitars allowed” aesthetic fostered on the previous record, WIXIW.
The NYC trio Liars have never given listeners a chance to get comfortable. Looking back over the electronic left turns of 2012’s “WIXIW,” or the hyper-rhythmic self-discoveries of 2006’s “Drum’s Not Dead,” it’s hard to believe this is the same band that came racing out of the gates in the standard-issue tight jeans of 2000’s post-punk revival. Knowing what to do with one’s freedom is no small luxury, and on “Mess,” the group deftly submits to the forms and tropes of electro-pop and vintage EBM.
Liars has been around for awhile, yet with every album, its psychedelic, experimental style is redefined, giving the band a rep of savage unpredictability. Since its debut, Salem witch trial-themed concept album They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top, the band has taken us through wild erratic soundscapes all the way to WIXIW’s relatively minimalist electro-punk in 2012. This time around, the trio—Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross—have returned to that unhinged nature with their seventh studio effort, Mess.
"Thou shalt choose the hard road with an equal mix of hubris and regret," reads the third commandment on Angus Andrew's list of Liars' most consecrated creative ideologies, as dictated to The Stool Pigeon in 2012. Admittedly there is little regrettable about the discography Andrew, Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross have left behind them, but the statement does seem to somewhat encapsulate the group's fearless approach to trying on different musical skins for size, wearing them in, taking a nonchalant stroll down the aforementioned hard road, before tearing them off with the ferocity of a school of piranhas. With Mess, their seventh album since their conception some fourteen years ago, Liars have come to consume the trajectory they've traced over the years - over continents, over genres, over anything that stands in their way; hubris, regret and all.
Since the group’s inception in 2000, dance-thrashers Liars have barreled down abysmal spirals to reach clarity. From the punk-stomp of 2004’s They Were Wrong, So We Drowned to the bleary-eyed atmospherics of their last, WIXIW, there’s always a palatable dread hovering over the trio’s work. Still, Liars functions as an amorphous entity dramatically expanding and constricting from record to record.
When Liars announced that they were going full electronica for 2012’s WIXIW it seemed only a matter of time before we’d be treated to the first proper Liars dance album. After all, you arm a trio of one-time disco-punks and craven hedonists with big fucking machines and there’s only ever going to be one outcome. But because Liars’ music has been repetitious and rhythm-led from the start, the transition to dance is a logical one – and once WIXIW‘s all-out techno rinser ‘Brats’ emerged, it always seemed like a likely one.
Liars Mess (Mute) To recap: 2001 debut They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top was noisy and angry, and so was its slightly more electronic follow-up, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. 2006's Drum's Not Dead featured massive percussion and a sense of newfound nuance, while the following year's Liars was practically shoegaze, Sisterworld (2010) sounded like a band that just finished opening for Radiohead, and WIXIW (2012) was the dance disc. That brings us to Mess, the latest LP from a Brooklyn trio that shifts tone right before our eyes.