They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
irst—some background: your Stylus staffer here wrote some of the initial UK press for Liars. While working for dotmusic, Mute asked if I wanted to interview/review a new signing. They sounded intriguing, so I did. And because dotmusic is online, the review (and my photos) went up the next day. And ka-boom—the Liars phenomenon was off and running.
That gig was like witnessing a car crash. We didn’t know what would happen next—the band was going full-throttle nuts. Angus Andrew thrashed seizure-like, leapt off amp stacks, and wrapped himself in blue electrical tape. Aaron Hemphill attacked his guitar with such frenzy that by set’s end, he had broken strings and bloody fingers. In other words, it was utterly brilliant.
After They Threw Us All In A Trench and Stuck A Monument On Top, Liars made some changes. Aaron and Angus chucked out their rhythm section, and Angus moved to New Jersey with his missus (Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). They also bought gear with the money from their debut and started recording in Angus’s Jersey basement.
So what happened? Well, it’s just too much; too much noise, too much concept, too much deep NJ woods isolation, and too many witches’ tales. Yes, you read right—witches’ tales. The album is not conceptual, but a song-by-song story inspired by the Legend of Brocken Mountain in Germany (the title of the album being a nod to the injustice of witch trials). According to German folklore, on April 30th witches fly their broomsticks to the mountains for a heathen festival, coinciding with the night the ancient deities conceived spring.
So, like the folks who made Mamma Mia by crow-baring Abba tunes around a ‘theme’, Liars do the same except with spooky stuff. But what it sounds like is two noize freaks let loose in a noize freak shop. From the death knell bell ring/electro-bzzz of “Broken Witch” to last track “Flow My Tears The Spider Said” circus of the damned’s calliope intro, its all a bunch of disparate clatter in search of a flow. Second track “Steam Rose From the Lifeless Cloak” sounds like the start of headache, with its dull throb cut by electrical current, and by the time “If You’re a Wizard, Then Why Do You Wear Glasses” rolls around, you’re in full-fledged laying down in a darkened room with a cold towel on your head migraine territory.
There are a couple of stunners, though. The strongest track, “Read The Book The Wrote Itself”, is genuinely moody, catching you in its grip by teaming wonderfully haunting drumming with a thunderstorm of crashing waves. Similarly, sinister choral-like vocals and pagan ritual percussion makes “We Fenced Other Houses With The Bones Of Our Own” percolate with atmosphere.
The album, as a whole, is impeccably produced. And if dark-synth, serious attention to analogue noise, with a little arty pretentiousness thrown in is your bag, this is for you. But if you were hoping for more post-punk thrash-sonic wig-outs, it isn’t. But all is not lost. Angus has stated (before this one is even out!) “This isn’t us forever. We could easily make a Japanese pop record next time.” Oh, now that’s something to shout about. And them live. There will always be that to shout about.
Reviewed by: Lisa Oliver
Reviewed on: 2004-02-24