Ultimately, there are no real Liars. The Brooklyn (by way of Berlin by way of Los Angeles by way of the sisterworld) trio started out a gleefully rigid, Rapture-ready dance-punk band on their 2001 debut They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, but only because they had to start somewhere, so they might as well have started with a party.
But please don’t think they’re PiL-worshiping disco devils at their core, and that the rest of their discography is just a reaction to their primal sound. Liars are always what they are telling you that they are, each time out, be it conceptually dense atonal nightmares on 2004’s They Were Wrong So We Drowned, percussive hypnotizers on Drum’s Not Dead, noise-punk star students on 2007’s self-titled release or bleeding hearts in love with bleeding hiss on 2010’s Sisterworld. Few bands could weather the backlash Liars received for the oft-impenetrable They Were Wrong, but not only did Liars survive, they were emboldened to find new harsh realms. The band stood by They Were Wrong, and by the time critics and fans came around, they had already moved on.
Liars have also gained an unexpected resonance outside of their kingdom: Radiohead tapped them for opening duties. Odd Future rapped over their beats. Jonathan Levine used their most heartbreaking ballad in the most heartbreaking scene in 50/50.
Switching it up as always, the trio’s new album WIXIW is their most purely electronic LP yet. Built around samplers, keyboard lines and motorik basslines, it veers from dreamscapes worthy of Brian Eno (“The Exact Color of Doubt”), to pulsating dancefloor chants that blend mechanical whirring with pleas to quit acting like a robot (“A Ring on Every Finger”), to carefully balanced explorations of love’s ability to pull you back from the ledge and then push you back over it all over again with no notice (“No. 1 Against the Rush”). The melodies are lovely even when they are sinister, and the results sound like Liars because it couldn’t possibly be anyone else. They are Liars, and they are telling you the truth.
WIXIW is out now via Mute.
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