I don’t really know why I waffled on these guys as long as I did — I’d been hearing great, great stuff about the Born Liars for a couple of years, but I’d always kind of shrugged and blew ’em off. I’d liked frontman/guitarist/singer Jimmy Sanchez (who apparently also writes all the songs) in his old band, Gun Crazy, but never felt like they were really everything they could’ve been; I guess I transferred that so-so feeling over to the Liars.
And that’s a shame, because these guys are pretty much the personification of the H-town garage-rock/punk scene in all its ragged, boozy, shredded-throat glory. What did it for me was the band’s “Don’t Tell Me, I Know” 7-inch on Rosa “Scene Godmother” Guerrero’s Ditchwater records — that one track, packed full of sneering, bitter vitriol, plenty of cheap liquor, and awesomely warm, analog-distorted guitar that crackles like a bonfire more than some layered electronic fuzz, opened my eyes to how truly great these guys are (the slit-your-wrists drunken despondence of the B-side, a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Don’t Know Why” helped, too).
After that, I found myself wandering back to the band’s first full-length, Exit Smiling, and digging past the too-clean production that’d put me off in the past to find the album’s nitro-burning soul beneath. The truth is that these guys write great, addictively catchy songs that owe as much to Jerry Lee Lewis’s on-the-edge boogie as they do Heartbreakers/Stooges/MC5 rawk, and they play it like they’ve lived every second of it, all the heartbreak and betrayal and fights and bars, the way nobody really has in this town since Sugar Shack called it quits. Heck, their live shows have a reputation for turning into mean near-fights among the band members themselves.
In terms of local rock bands, the Liars have thankfully been remarkably prolific, cranking out first Exit Smiling, an inaugura 7″ I’ve never seen, then the Ditchwater vinyl, and in early-early 2009, the latest LP, Ragged Island, which grabs hold of the promise of Smiling, peels back any semblance of pretty sheen, and fashions the band’s sound into something damn near to classic. They’ve also got a third 7″ on the way, on Chris Ryan’s Heavy Leather Records, with even more to come — there’s a 7″ comp with No Talk & some other folks, plus either an EP or another whole damn full-length nearly completed. These guys don’t fuck around.
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