Liars, Drum’s Not Dead

Liars, Drum's Not Dead

If they had any other band name, you could probably take Liars to court for some of the most jarring stylistic changes since Neil Young got sued for transmogrifying his roots-rock sound into Trans. Their first album fit snugly in the school of spastic dance rock (cf. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Rapture, etc.). I never picked up their second album, recorded with a different rhythm section, after hearing many disappointed reports, but word had it that it was almost unlistenable noise. And now we have…this.

What “this” is slightly defies description to me, which I don’t mean as a pejorative. This is possibly the best new album I’ve heard this year. Liars apparently live in Berlin now, and some of the more recognizable sonic touchstones are German — Faust and Einst├╝rzende Neubauten spring to mind, although neither’s quite right. There’s more than a few moments of menace, tribal percussion, and processed sounds that teeter on the axis between “music” and “noise,” but there’s also a spare and delicate feel to parts of the album as well, nowhere more prominent than in the beautiful closing track, “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack.” That there’s not a consistent adjective that can be used across the album is indicative of the fact that this isn’t a genre album but an odyssey by musicians who may not be sure where they’re going themselves but are intent on exploring and carving out their own space. In an era of trendy micro-genres, even attempting this is noteworthy; that it works is cause for great praise.

Most notable about this release (and a reason not to content yourself with downloading it, not that you would ever consider that) is the inclusion of a DVD which has three full-length videos for the album. One is completely fucking useless (unless you like looking at a snail for 40-some minutes; if so, enjoy your drugs), but the other two are actually quite interesting. Julian Gross’s “Drum’s Not Bread” is often silly but also sometimes quite clever in its use of split screen, stop-motion, and other special effects; moreover, it’s insightful for its inclusion of studio and live footage which completely recontextualized this album in my head, taking a slightly alien music and grounding it in flesh and blood performances. Markus Wambsganss’s “By Your Side,” meanwhile, feels much more like an “art film”; while largely stripped of humor, it has its own Teutonic charms, particularly for those who like experimental film. “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack,” for instance, hearkens back to the films of Stan Brakhage in its use of scratches and Bruce Conner in its use of leaders. Also noteworthy is that the DVD gives you the option of 5.1 sound — if you’ve got the setup, this would be a perfect album to get lost in, with or without visual accompaniment.

(Mute Records -- 429 Harrow Road, London, W10 4RE, ENGLAND; http://www.mute.com/; Liars -- http://www.liarsliarsliars.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Friday, July 14th, 2006. Filed under Reviews.

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