Liars: Peculiar Punk

There are plenty of peculiar bands (and songs) gracing the music industry these days. And those tunes are taking up precious gigabytes in your iTunes. I’m looking at Threebrain, or “Ma Ya Hi” from O-zone, or Weird Al. Those songs that you pull out at parties and social gatherings but never return to later because they’re embarrassing. There’s no point to it besides the entertainment factor.

There are, in fact, bands that uphold a decent musical standard while introducing some strange but interesting sounds to your delicate earholes. Take Liars for example, an experimental rock/punk group that formed in the early 2000s. They dabble in everything from electronic to garage punk and their records reflect that. But oddly enough, they reflect only one genre per album. If you pull up They Were Wrong, So We Drowned (2004), you’ll notice, due to a combination of album art and track titles, the record completely focuses on the Salem witch trials, both fiction and non-fiction. In the opening track, they repeat the word “blood” for a solid thirty seconds. They also chant a good portion of the lyrics in Drowned, most likely replicating a witch gathering.

Liars’ sound changes ever so slightly from one album to the next. If you compare WIXIW (2012) with Drowned, there’s a huge sound gap, straight out of left field. One second they’re singing with grungy, distorted vocals about burning witches, then WIXIW swoops in with its mellow electronica. And you think to yourself, where did this come from? Liars is an experimental rock group for a reason. By branding themselves as experimental, they’re essentially free to do what they want without genre restrictions. And that was a conscious decision. In an interview with Pitchfork, front man Angus Andrews mentions the point that they enjoy doing whatever they want.Liars

When most bands drastically alter their sound, fans get angry. When Liars releases a new album, Pitchfork usually gives it rave reviews, no matter what they sound like. Listeners probably respond with a shrug and a comment such as “eh, it’s just Liars, that’s what they do.” So the band continues to do what they want, no matter what others think, and I respect that. They remind me of a modern Nirvana in a way.

Their song writing appears somewhat unconventional as well. Collectively, the band writes lyrics after they program the drum machine and lay down the song’s rhythm. Another interesting piece of their creative process is their location scouting. Each album was delivered in a different part of the world; Drowned in New Jersey, Sisterworld and WIXIW in vastly different sections of Los Angeles, and Drum’s Not Dead (2006) in Berlin. Each location influenced the album’s direction. In a comment about WIXIW, they stated that the title was a palindrome to represent how you can work so hard at something just to end up at the same place you started. They apply similar thought processes to other albums. When Drowned infamously received the lowest possible scores from Rolling Stone and Spin magazine, they tossed it aside, moved to Berlin, and began recording Drum’s Not Dead.

WIXIW, pronounced ‘Wish You,’ stands out as the most progressive and consciously developed among their releases. While it may sound chaotic and confusing, the driving beats are strong enough to pull the listener through the album from start to finish. Each track is slightly different from the next, but that’s the case with ‘normal’ bands, too. “Brats,” with its tantrum-like distortion and ‘90s grunge feel, is the only one of its kind among the mellow and minimalistic on WIXIW. The rest of the songs are primarily synth-driven. WIXIW definitely focuses on the electronic-punk genre while its predecessor, Sisterworld (2010), sounds like the soundtrack of an abandoned carnival.

What I’m getting at is that you need to take each album on a test drive to get a real feel for this band. If their sound doesn’t convince you, take a peek at the handful of music videos. The band members make an appearance in every video. Sometimes they’re suffocated in dry cleaning vans and sometimes they’re characters in poorly animated versions of Looney Tunes’ Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny eternal hunting rivalry

Liars don’t print lyric booklets with their CDs because they want people to interpret them, not commend them. They cater to the unexpected. If fans praise great drums and guitar riffs, then Liars will throw out a curveball and completely switch things up. They don’t like the comfortable; they aim for the abnormal. It keeps things challenging, for themselves as musicians and for their open-minded listeners.

 

 

 

 

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