They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
he human mind can get used to anything, given enough time. The same goes with the ear. There’s no other way I explain that, for example, I found OK Computer difficult to listen to when I first heard it. These days, compared to much of the music I come across, it’s practically Teenage Fanclub (no disrespect intended to either Radiohead or Teenage Fanclub, by the way).
Liars’ first album, 2001’s They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top was abrasive on first listen, but the first seven tracks were all variations on the same theme, musically, the eighth was fifty seconds long and instrumental and the last track ‘This Dust Makes That Mud’ was half an hour of the same loop. All rather straightforward; the individual songs may have been thrilling, spasmodic takes on post-punkfunk (or whatever you want to call it), but you got used to it pretty quickly.
Not so They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. Indeed, not only is it hard to get accustomed to, but it’s nothing like the tracks from They Threw Us All In A Trench…. It’s all identifiably the work of the same band, but if They Threw Us All In A Trench… sounded more like an EP with twenty minutes of rumbling tacked on to the end, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is definitely an album. “Broken Witch”, for example, opens the record with six minutes of disconnected chanting, seemingly random keyboard noises and eventually builds to a frenzy, Angus Andrews and co. chanting “Blood! Blood! Blood! Blood!” for quite a while.
Even a track like “There’s Always Room On The Broom”, which is more driving, simple and direct still subverts the (in retrospect) primitivisms of They Threw Us…, making for a ore haunting take on the same sound. This time, in addition to a bizarre lyrical focus on witches, magic, the devil and dark government misdeeds, they can manage credible instrumentals (“Steam Rose From The Lifeless Cloak”), evocative dirges (“We Fenced Other Houses With The Bones Of Our Own”, “Flow My Tears The Spider Said”) and more of the craziness Liars specialize in (“Hold Hands And It Will Happen Anyway”). None of it gels the first, say, ten times through, but if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief you begin to unearth the structure beneath the madness.
Although this effort lacks the immediate appeal of Liars’ debut, it displays an amazing growth rate, and once you dig deep inside these songs and get used to them, it’s a much stronger record than you might expect from something that will probably wind up being, in retrospect, a transitional album. If they can make more songs like “They Don’t Want Your Corn They Want Your Kids”, that bring together the best aspects of both albums, they’ll have an outright classic on their hands.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2004-02-24