Release Date: Jun 04, 12
You can’t talk about Liars without discussing their constant transformation as a band. It’s their most apparent and endearing quality musicians. Liars are the kind of guys who follow up tongue-in-cheek dance-punk with witchy, tribal noise soaked in reverb. They seem to enjoy making listeners as uncomfortable as they make themselves each time they record a new album and rewrite their sound. Though their music has always been eeire, heavily percussive, and noisy, what they do with those elements never seems to stop shifting. Liars’ willingness to challenge themselves and their craft is as admirable as it is consistently remarkable.
WIXIW (pronounced: “wish you”) is no different. The album is the next logical step in a series of illogical switches: an electronic album. This breed of transition tends to either enhance a band’s sound or spell doom for them. Liars have pulled it off by maintaining their spooky personality and injecting a formerly organic sound into synthetic instruments. “Octagon” is a creep-out, melding pounding industrial percussion with heavy synths and that classic Liars bass-bounce. While the song is nothing new by Liars standards, it channels established ideas into a technologically dense soundscape. Multi-layered tribal drums appear on “A Ring on Every Finger,” blasting from synth-pads and drum machines rather than the usual floor toms. The title track drones winding guitars over a stuttering rhythm for six minutes, so drenched in different electronic sounds that it becomes grating. And despite the infectious chorus “I refuse to be a person,” the song “Flood to Flood” manages to still be unsettling, the instruments fighting back-and-forth over Angus Andrews’ dynamic mumbles. These tracks stand among Liars’ most evocative, able to jar and disturb the listener while still being melodic and well-constructed.
It’s not all so haunting and melancholy. “Brats” is an electro-style throwback to Liars’ now ancient dance-punk sound, a song that wouldn’t be out of place in the club. The opening track is four minutes of warm synth accompanied by soothing vocals, and interlude “Ill Valley Prodigies,” despite having some creepy sound clips of kids playing, is mostly acoustic guitar and gentle singing. WIXIW’s lead single, “No.1 Against the Rush,” is perhaps the band’s most positive song, synth-poppy with doses of Ultravox and Suicide culminating into what I’m pretty sure is a love song. A fun romp, but out of place with Liars. Like some of the other songs on the album, it’s dragged down by uneventful melodies. The tune to “A Ring on Every Finger” feels like a watered-down version of “Houseclouds,” from their self-titled record. “Who Is the Hunter” sounds like what would happen if you put all the 30-second album previews for WIXIW in a blender, doing nothing to stand out but blare even more synths and strings toward the very end. Somewhere on the album is a lyric and melody mirroring the second half of “It Fit When I Was a Kid” off Drum’s Not Dead. Luckily, Liars’ interpretation of electronic music is engaging enough to keep these flaws at bay. WIXIW is far from Liars’ best work, but it’s hard to be disappointed in a band for creating a great album documenting a band’s continuously impressive maturation. Long live the Liars and their identity crisis.