Album Review: Liars ‘Mess’
Words by Lauren Ziegler - Published on April 8, 2014
Brooklyn three-piece Liars’ newest release, Mess, is stranger, synthier and more brutal than ever before. It’s terrifying and I love it.
Mess is a great album, a definite electronica-fuelled reinvention, a massive progression from WIXIW and Sisterworld. It’s loud and relentless and the kind of album I’ve really enjoyed listening to from start to finish.
The first track, Mask Maker is what would have happened If mid-late ‘90s Marilyn Manson replaced distorted guitars with melodicas and glitchy electro-synth.
Vox Tuned D.E.D slows down a bit, and the vocals are a little more Kraftwerk than Manson. The wailing synth is the exact opposite of singer Angus Andrew’s slurry vocals. It’s equal parts leather-clad gritty industrial, equal parts “I-just-ate-four -pills-with-smiley-faces-on-them”
And then Pro Anti Anti begins and the first line of vocals is “They brood in ecstasy, a thought to wrap your head ‘round” which kind of says exactly that.
I love the structure of at Pro Anti Anti. It starts with a tantalisingly soft synth, which starts driving and building, ever-so-slowly. We go through electro-inspired breakdowns, synths which thin out to reveal no more than the bare bones of a minimal-tech beat, leading into a slow chant, which soon begins to build again, – a synthy flicker here, a high-pitched speck there – before the beat comes back in, with even more brute force than before.
We’re given a little break then, with Can’t Here Well. The beat takes a back seat, the music slows down, and I no longer feel like I’m receiving a lyrical punch to the face.
The first single from the album, Mess on a Mission, is next. I really love this song. It’s very ‘80s-synth but not in a Depeche Mode way, more in a Pacman kind of way. “Facts are Facts and Fiction’s Fiction,” is repeatedly barked at us. Andrew’s vocals are almost military in style, and the beat-heavy track sounds like some sort of weird propaganda.
Darkslide is muddy and disturbing. I can definitely picture it being used in a horror-movie scene, where the main protagonist is lost in a dark, sticky forest, getting zapped by laser mosquitos, with no escape in sight.
The unsettling beats and sounds continue through the next couple tracks. Weird sounds, glitchy beats, haunting loops. I uncomfortably shift in my chair, as I begin almost craving something happy and catchy.
The relentlessly alien sounds keep coming. I really like Dress Walker. One of my favourites on the album. Mysteriously blurred vocals, synced with a sort of plucked violin sound, and a really muffled bass behind it. A really tiny breakdown followed by a stifled build-up to the beat eventually gives way to a little clarity in the vocals and the beat, as though a veil has lifted. Suddenly, the shackles are released and some really cool sounds surface, including what may be a trumpet. Nice.
Perpetual Village is similarly mysterious and restrained; I think it’s safe to say that we’ve left the Hi-NRG behind. There are some really strange un-harmonic harmonies between vocal and synth here. With only one track to go, I am now convinced that Liars are trying to fuck all of our brains up.
The final track, Left Speaker Blown contains a backing riff which is the most melodic thing we’ve heard on the album, and there’s a really lovely feedback above it. The softened vocals are deliberate and lamenting. This is the perfect end to this album. The feedback waxes and wanes a few times, and the ever-present synth is meditatively soothing. Beautiful piano trickles enter, and the song almost seems to slow down slightly. We even get a little violin and some vocal sampling as it eventually trails off. How very GY!BE of them…
Mess is a terrifying and insane journey, which I came out of alive and mostly unscathed. I think I might actually go mad if I listened to it again right now.
The tracks flowed totally differently to previous Liars’ albums, which tended to run one frantic track, followed by a low, slow cool-down, followed by a peak again, etc. Mess is top heavy, and it tapers and slows as the album progresses. It created almost a storytelling vibe, and I found it really powerful in that sense.
I spent a fair amount o ftime searching through the album for a Mess, as per the title. But I didn’t find one. What I found was organised chaos, and emotional confrontation. At times, I couldn’t tell if the music was spontaneously written, or maticulously composed to make it sound spontaneous. There were themes of neuroses, paranoia, uncertainty and fear throughout, but they all seemed to resolve themselves towards the end. In fact, I think I almost found a little solace in the fact that there was no mess, just layers and layers of sound.
Highly recommended. Proceed with caution.
Mess comes out in Australia this Friday, April 11
Pre-order it HERE!