L I A R
they threw us all in a trench and stuck a monument on top
"...It's like if you took out the guitar player in Guns N' Roses and put in some 16-year-old kid who didn't know how to play that, it would probably be like eight times better..." —Angus Andrews
Liars are about as "artsy" as a hammer, yet their boundary shattering sonic implosion can only be described as "art-punk." And though to typecast them with the same post- prefix that mars all modern art seems crass, Liars are nothing if not post-punk: they've left it behind.
Hailing from Brooklyn, and part of the endlessly hyped NYC scene that has birthed a diverse array of groups in an explosion of music—the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Liars' friends and tourmates), Interpol, the Strokes (only worth mentioning because of their popularity), electroclash—Liars are perhaps the most experimental and original to have won an audience. They mingle electro, dance, punk, and noise in a stuttering, staggering, epileptic seizure of sound, sounding more like Les Savy Fav than any of their geographical compatriots. Liars' debut album, "they threw us all in a trench and stuck a monument on top" was recorded in two days and originally released in 2001 on the small indie label Gern Blandsten. It was reissued on Blast First/Mute Records in 2002, finding much wider distribution.
Liars are Angus Andrews, Aaron Hemphill, Pat Noecker, and Ron Albertson. Angus Andrews is the giant-statured, mulleted and mustached Australian expatriate who provides the band's vocals. Hemphill went to art school with Andrews in L.A., and the two later moved to New York, finding bassist Noecker and live drummer Albertson through a flyer in a music storeLIARS. The band's unofficial fifth member is its drum machine, which provides the foundation for their songs. Noecker's basslines are a powerful highlight of Liars' sound, though in true punk rock fashion Andrews has said "If everyone's like [uses adoring voice], "We just looove all the basslines, and drum beats on your last record," then we just challenge ourselves to write good songs without being beat-driven, or without strong basslines." Everything about this band is confrontational, from their sentence-long, disjointed song titles to their impressionistic, often nonsensical lyrics: "it's not a narrative, and it's not a story, and it's not a finished sort of idea. Really, the idea is just planting a seed. It differs from song to song exactly what seed we're trying to plant, but really, the premise is to give you something to start with, and then let you go with it." (Angus) The album's cover is thought-provoking in the same way: a harshly photocopied black and white drawing, a wireframe cube containing a bed, stained with what looks like black ink. On the cube's ceiling is splayed a human body, pinned in a gravity-defying pool of black blood dripping to the bed below.
. . .
Grown men dont fall in the river,
just like that
"Everybody in his or her own life needs a hobby..." Angus Andrews' tired monotone opens the record, exploding into driving, slashing guitar: "We've got our finger on the pulse of America!" A blast of rhythmic bass over sampled dialogue—you can dance to this! "Not too political, nothing too clever!" It's either a prescription or a pronouncement for the country whose pulse they're checking—or maybe just a mission statement by a band that has no time for politics or intellectualization. Grown men dont fall delivers, without a doubt, the most arresting lines on the album and growls to a close.
Mr your on fire Mr
"Do the twist, twist for ice cream!" A harrowing bassline, cracking drum machine loops, and swirling synth scratching opens track two, careening between jerky disco and the echoing, ethereal chorus, "By the seaside, left the seashore, that's where I got lost." "We had a chance—to get violent, shiny teeth—to perfection!" With its aurally autistic automatic dance beats, Mr your on fire Mr was the album's mp3 single.
Loose nuts on the Veladrome
Shuddering with menace, Veladrome rips into a chanted mantra: "Last night you and I we gathered berries with our flashliaiiaiights." A wrenching, stop-start industrial rumble drives forward beneath soaring, modulated cries.
The Garden Was Crowded And Outside
The rhythmic tapping of a typewriter is joined by faraway, static hip hop drumbeats and a beeping telephone. "Well I like I like I like I like I like I like I like I like I like I like I like — the whole white ceiling... it's just four feet wide!" Assimilated by a pulsating cloud of electronic ash, a nuclear explosion, a volcano's plume shooting electric bolts. "They cut me up they cut me up they cut me up they cut me up they cut me up they cut me up at the medical school!" Combined with Veladrome, The Garden is a tour de force. "They put me in they put me in they put me in they put me in they put me in they put me into the cement mixer!"
Tumbling walls buried me in the debris with ESG
Its beat almost a cliche, ESG is a comparatively reserved song that builds to the repeated exhortation "Leave your work at home, put down the briefcase" before that bass beats its way in again. A consciously spooky and suspenseful looping melody (a sample courtesy of the early 80s punk/funk/no wave group ESG) provides background.
Nothing is ever lost
or can be lost
my science Friend
A sepulcheral accellerating drum-machine beat, simply rhythmic bass, and sweep of electricity quiver with antagonism as they push Angus through spoken vocals and whispers. This should explode, but it never does, the sonic equivalent of jumping on a trampoline while carrying nitroglycerine?
We live NE of Compton
A buildup of backtracked sound fragments propells NE of Compton into a barrel-roll of disco, bass, and strangely reserved vocals that culminate in a Les Savy Fav-like chorus: "Men from the boys — boys from the men — men from the boys from the boys from the men!" A tangled mass of guitar crashes into the last farewell fragment of vocal: "The city loves you."
Why midnight walked but didnt ring her bell
Shambling junkyard percussion, a far-away organ, and piano compromise this short instrumental interlude that sounds almost like the beat Tom Waits would use if he made gangsta rap.
A dangerous rumble slopes upward into this dust makes that mud, a melancholy, droning meditation. Screeches of electronics, static, and guitar buzz above and below Angus Andrews' distant and slowly building vocals, which dissolve into long, windblown werewolf moans and howls. Sampled dialogue and chatter pull toward a close, but Liars program their drum machine and leave the room, locking the track into an epic repetition of a three second loop at the eight minute mark. We still have twenty-two minutes left, listeners. this dust is not an exercise in pain ala "Sheets of Easter" from Oneida'sLIARSLIARS Each One Teach One, merely a test of patience that's actually not too taxing, though I challenge you to last for the whole thirty minutes—you'll be surprised by the wind down.
. . .
LIARS — they threw us all in a trench and stuck a monument on top
1...Grown men dont fall in the river,/just like that...3,03
2...Mr your on fire Mr...2,27
3...Loose nuts on the Veladrome...2,19
4...The Garden Was Crowded And Outside...2,44
5...Tumbling walls buried me in the debris with ESG...4,04
6...Nothing is ever lost/or can be lost/my science Friend...3,03
7...We live NE of Compton...3,01
8...Why midnight walked but didnt ring her bell...0,51
9...this dust makes that mud...30,07
recorded by: steve revitte/june30-july1,2001/brooklyn,ny
produced & mixed by: steve revitte and LIARS
mastered by: alan douches/westwestside
remastered by: dennis blackham/country masters,uk
. . .
LIARS: On Monday, April 21, 2003, Hemphill confirmed that Albertson and Noecker are now ex-Liars, both having amicably departed to work on their own music and art. "the rumor about us burning to death while drowning is however totally true," writes Hemphill.
LIARSLIARS: Not nodevertising: Liars made a split EP with Oneida entitled Atheists Reconsider. The name-dropping is warranted.
All quotes from Pitchfork Media interview: http://pitchforkmedia.com/interviews/l/liars-02/