Release Date: Jun 5, 2012
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Maybe it was only a matter of time before these former Radiohead tourmates took a shot at their own Kid A. The unpredictable noise rockers come pretty close on their sixth album, although WIXIW packs too many weird twists to feel derivative. Liars build a haunted palace of smeared synths and dysfunctional drum machines around Angus Andrew's echo-cloaked incantations.
Insulation and isolation are often integral to the development and evolution of artistic projects. It could be said that the exploration of capability and the fulfillment of potential can only be fully realized when an individual or collective is free of external distraction, which is something that could be achieved, however illusory or not, through seclusion and separation. On their sixth album, WIXIW (pronounced “wish you”), it appears that Liars may have taken to this line of thinking, retreating to rather more intimate and obscure surroundings to record what would become a predominantly electronic and sampled-based stunner of an album.
Liars are at their most powerful when experimenting. The proficient New York post-punk of their 2001 debut was followed by the less critically/commercially successful but artistically triumphant They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, an insane, no-wave concept album about witchcraft. Coinciding with Pottermania, it was a playfully disturbing, Rowling-baiting, broom-straddling brew of German folklore, persecution, black magic, equine envy and blood, blood, BLOOD, BLOOD.
When news broke of the new album from the Liars’ camp, it was cryptic, to say the least. The album’s title, WIXIW, seemed like some sort of heiroglyphic mess, and the video trailer featured time-lapse footage of a banana rotting and microphones pointed at a bowl of Rice Krispies. But hey, this is the band that put out a concept album about a drum fighting a mountain, so weird is to be expected (or better yet, embraced).
LiarsWIXIW[Mute; 2012]By Andrew Halverson; June 11, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetLiars have always had vast directional shifts in terms of their albums, that much is known. In the past, their records were heavier, bitter and harshly unsettled. All the way through Sisterworld, their albums were full of mental and outside conflict that constantly retaliated on itself.
The standard line on any new Liars album is that the band will have tried something completely new. They’re always changing their sound. This escapism always seems to be directly related to the scene in which Liars came up—the NY post-dance-punk scene. Liars were always trying to get rid of that association—which is a good thing, since they’ve continually pushed themselves to be inventive.
Rules are made to be broken, but the classy iconoclast knows you need to learn the rules first so that you can break them properly. LA-based professional pin-dodgers Liars no sooner establish the parameters of a sound than they’re crashing through them. The trio’s past five records have seen them move from the abrasive dance-punk of their debut, through the noise tantrums of ‘They Were Wrong, So We Drowned’ and creepy atmospherics of ‘Drum’s Not Dead’ to something as close as this lot ever get to conventional rock songs on ‘Liars’ and ‘Sisterworld’, culminating in the gormless, gleeful, grungy bounce of single ‘The Overachievers’, Liars’ indie disco moment.But true to form, they’re bored with all that now.
Anyone familiar with Liars knows that each album feels like a reintroduction to the band, and WIXIW (pronounced "wish you") is no exception. On their sixth album, the trio bring the electronic undercurrents that have been lurking in their sound since They Were Wrong, So We Drowned to the fore, but in a softly hypnotic fashion that's all the more surprising and striking given the sheer volume of the band's previous two albums, the gnarly rock of Liars, and the dense sprawl of their confrontational L.A. opus Sisterworld.
WIXIW opens with a big synthesizer string pad, an electro kick drum, some chopped-up snare, and Angus Andrew's melodic meanderings, soon joined by some faint IDM handclap rhythms. This sets the mood for yet another iteration of Liars—not the rockist-leaning Liars of 2010's Sisterworld or 2007's eponymous affair, but a sort of Liars 3.0, picking up on those occasional electronic inclinations and running with them. .
Filtering eerie dissonance through a shifting series of themed backdrops, Liars have established a successful formula for churning out fascinating albums. Using locations (Berlin, Salem, the New Jersey Pine Barrens) and concepts (the companion art project of Drum’s Not Dead) as anchors, they keep their sound familiar but also in a constant state of mutation, a method that makes them the shadowy cultists to Animal Collective’s pagan revelers. WIXIW doesn’t have as distinctive a hook as 2010’s Sisterworld, with its warped inversion of L.A., but its perhaps even more successful in its creation of a sinister mirror world.
New York’s Liars have the much-coveted ability to hop between genres without sounding overextended or plagiaristic. Since their dance-punk debut They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top in 2001, the trio has spent more than a decade toying with standard song structure, never failing to perplex even their most loyal fans. This is ultimately what’s kept them interesting and relevant for so long in a comically fickle music industry.
Even at their highest points of visibility, Liars have spent the last decade creating obfuscation. Their 2001 debut, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, was a raging fire of herky-jerky Solid Gold antagonism that ended a locked groove which, on CD, ran longer than all of the record's songs combined. The lead single from 2006's Drum's Not Dead, "It Fit When I Was a Kid", featured the unconflicted cover image of the trio's faces superimposed onto gay pornography.
Examining what's left of the early-2000's post-punk revival, it's surprising to think Liars are having the last laugh. After all, so much of their career has been spent trying to deny their role in it. First they fled New York for Berlin, and then left Berlin for Los Angeles—which they've also found reason to dislike. But despite their best attempts to escape description and re-invent themselves on every album, they've forever been held together by a spindle of tension.
It seems a tradition in the progression of most post-punk, experimental and/or No Wave-allegiant bands that they will eventually exchange their axe for a synthesizer, as if over the course of their creative development they just run out of guitar. Most recently shriek punkers Mi Ami went this route, as did garage revivalists Yeah Yeah Yeahs and indie rock band, Blonde Redhead. TV on the Radio’s 2008 release Dear Science stuck heavily to production and Radiohead is all too obvious an example of this with Kid A.
LIARS play Lee’s Palace Saturday (July 21). See listing. Rating: NNN Gloomy Brooklyn electronic rock band Liars have a lot in common with Radiohead - some good, some bad. Both acts can write a catchy pop song but do everything to avoid it. While this sometimes leads to groundbreaking creativity ….
As brief as it may seem, Liars have now relegated a sextet of albums that continue to defy all odds and interestingly enough, continue to defy normal logic. While always maintaining their experimental side with albums that never repeat themselves, Liars have basked in the glory of creating conceptual, cohesive albums where the importance lies in sound and not in depiction. At the beginning, with They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, the band explores tough-minded rock that is both spirited and rough around the edges, their third album found the band in a breakthrough stage with Drum’s Not Dead and its amazing scope of experimental beats and drums (it also bore the beautiful ending now glorified on 50/50) and recently they focused that rawness with a stunning décor on Sisterworld.
Where do you go when you could go anywhere? Well, the answer, if you’re Liars, seems to be a log cabin in the woods. The constantly shifting art rock beast retreated to the wilderness to come up with the sounds for their new record and emerged with ‘WIXIW’ (pronounced ‘Wish you’). It’s another volte-face, seeing them meld together samples to form a work rich in textures and ideas.
There are worse reputations to have than being predictably unpredictable. With each successive album Liars have become the type of band that defies easy categorizations and simple genre classifications, but they’ve gone about it in a fairly natural and progressive way that feels less like a series of calculated choices and more like a continuous exploration. The band’s debut, They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top, was lumped in with the dance-punk revival even though it was a lot more menacing than danceable.
"If we aren't confusing people, it's not us. If we aren't confusing ourselves with what we do, then we've failed." Those words from goliath Liars frontman Angus Andrew give some perspective into the unpredictable gauntlet this Brooklyn, NY trio have thrown down for the last dozen years. Moving to Los Angeles to make 2010's Sisterworld, the band remained in the city to record sixth album WIXIW (pronounced "wish you") after Andrew and Aaron Hemphill wrote it in a remote cabin in the mountains.
A superb sixth album from a band truly in a field of its own. John Doran 2012 Of all the bands to emerge out of London and New York’s post punk/punk funk revival of a decade ago, only Liars and LCD Soundsystem really transcended pastiche and retro stylings to create something completely new. James Murphy’s grizzled dance crew wanted to put the art back into party and in so doing captured the essence of the decade with its hipster panic, MP3 playlists and obscure artist torrents.
Of all the artists navigating the potentials of the great fracture that has occurred in musical culture over the past decade, it's arguably Liars who have been the most bold, uncompromising and forthright. Not for them the self-consciously showy threading together of disparate musical forms into a gaudy necklace that snaps and scatters into nothing at more thorough inspection. Neither have they bothered themselves overly with worrying about what their contemporaries are up to: They Threw Us In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top was a bitingly sarcastic rebuttal to the New York music scene they were initially lumped into, as was the volte-face to write a violently uncommercial concept album about witches (They Were Wrong, So We Drowned).