“I wanna run away/I wanna bring you too” — this quintessential teenage snarl provides an appropriate opening for Liars’ forth full-length album. The three person art-rock outfit, known as much for their song-titles (think “We Fenced Other Houses With the Bones of Our Own”) as for their stylistic experimentation, has managed to put together a record that is distinctly stripped-down, but no less surprising. Says frontman Angus Andrew, “We…wanted to write songs that spoke for themselves in a more visceral way – like when you’re a teenager and things really mean a lot for you in a song.”
The first track, “Plaster Casts of Everything”, sets the tone with an explosion of discordant guitars and intense percussion. Followed by the spacey shuffle of “Houseclouds” and the paranoid atmospherics of “Leather Prowler”, it becomes obvious that Liars is not a band to be listened to passively. In the midst of a chill-out track (like “Sailing to Byzantium”), unexpected touches, such as an interlude of hallucinatory harpsichords, are hard to ignore. Growly, crunchy guitars make their presence known on the metal-tinged “Cycle Time”, while on the obsessive, squealing “Clear Island”, Andrew’s “Come save me,” seems that much more urgent when combined with the boot-stomping chant in the background.
All that being said, the band definitely doesn’t shy away from putting their pop sensibilities on display. There are more than a few instances where they seem to be pulling directly from the Jesus and Mary Chain’s sonic top-hat, as it were. “Freak Out” blends an unabashedly pretty melody with fuzzy guitars and catchy percussion, resulting in perhaps the most “radio friendly” track on the album. The jangly guitars on “Pure Unevil”, the reverb-heavy layers on “What Would They Know”, even the insistent dissonance of “The Dumb in the Rain” — Liars clearly understands that in order to create something original, it is always important to have a grasp on what came before.
Whereas the album begins on a rebellious note, it ends on a more introspective one. On the elegiac “Protection”, a somewhat more world-weary version of the opening track’s narrator muses about a long-ago summer (“I would take a Polaroid, you would teach me how to drink”), culminating in a little-older-little-wiser pronouncement: “Where are we today? Somewhere near the future.”
“When we started the band was more like a means of expression,” explains Andrew. “Before it was a bit more like an experiment, a stab in the dark.” Happily for Liars fans, this newest album is pretty much a clinic on blending this insatiable need to push boundaries with the confidence to simplify.
- Claire Orpeza