Liars, Liars

Sivanich, J.B.

For their fourth album, the multi-talented band Liars has decided to take a completely different direction, making the new album “simple and direct,” in lead singer/guitarist Angus Andrews’ words. The band even gave the album a very “simple and direct” title: “Liars.”
In doing so, Liars has created its most accessible album ever, ditching the elaborate concepts and storylines that have been the focus of its past two albums. Instead, Liars has decided to focus its energies on making great individual songs, regardless of style.
This simplification is one of the biggest drawbacks of “Liars”: It does not have that incredible sound of consistency that each of Liars’ previous albums had individually. That sound was one of the biggest sources of the band’s appeal, especially on its landmark third album, “Drum’s Not Dead.”
But “Liars” does not spread itself too thin. It shifts from West Coast dub — “Houseclouds” — to straightforward ’80s hard rock — “Plaster Castes of Everything” — to slow synth shoegaze ballads — “Protection” — relying only on the band’s energy and Andrews’ distinctive voice to connect the dots.
And however varied the songs are on the LP, “Liars” never drifts too far from the abstract minimalist art-rock that the band is known for — “Sailing to Byzantium” is a perfect example with its feedback, the quasi-sensical lyrics, the dead-end drum fills and the two-note baseline that propels the song from start to finish.
It is the tribal quality of Liars’ sound that unifies the whole album. Liars is known for building songs from rhythm patterns up.
Even though the drums do not play as prominent of a role in “Liars” as in the past two albums, great rhythms abound on this record, whether it is the throbbing pulse behind the album opener, “Plaster Castes of Everything” or it is the jangle of the oddly tuned repetitive guitar riff of the Velvet Underground-esque “The Dumb in the Rain.”
As for ringleader Angus Andrews, he still chants in “Clear Island” and squeals in “Plaster Castes of Everything” as brashly as when he proclaimed, “We got our finger on the pulse of America,” in the album opener of Liars’ first full-length, “They Threw Us All In a Trench and Put a Monument on Top,” one of the major works of the Dance-Punk explosion in New York City in the early 2000s.
In many ways, “Liars” is a big step forward for the band. The harmonies are more sophisticated: The way the synth fills in the gaps of Andrews’ falsetto during the outro of “Sailing to Byzantium” is particularly memorable.
Some songs show much more development in the lyrics department; on the album closer, “Protection,” Andrews delves into a rare linear narrative form, singing, “Do you remember when we were going out for lifeguards /and snuck into the caves where all the kids were smoking/ … I would take a Polaroid/ and you would show me how to drink.”
The synths/drums/voice song of innocent summer youth that is “Protection” is one the album’s best and is one of the biggest signs of promise in regards to Liars’ future. It shows a mature craftsmanship and a willingness to branch out, both of which are usually signs of a great next album.
But with Liars, the future is always an unknown, which makes them one of the most exciting and meaningful bands making music today.