This self-titled fourth album from New York-via-Berlin band Liars is another notch in their headboard of stylistic swings and surprises. Less conceptual than last year's Drum's Not Dead, Liars is possibly their most accessible work to date. Simple and brutal, artsy and textured, they manage to keep it all together this time. Relatively speaking, of course. This is Liars after all. Droney art-punk can and should only aspire to reach a limited number of adventurous souls.
Psychedelic dirge, experimental/noise rock or roots-punk pastiche, these 11 tracks make a fair play of distilling Liars' previous efforts. I hear some really early punk, a la The Monks on the appropriately titled "Freak Out." Repetitive vocals and the most rudimentary of structures provide the perfect vehicle for Liars to pay homage to one of their numerous creative stimuli. At times, I was nearly astonished by the simplicity. It seems to happen to the most artistic of bands. They go all pop (again, relatively, of course) on us after a couple brilliant and otherworldly albums, but Liars is almost fantastic and full of enough originality to satisfy and possibly impress.
Unassuming monotone vocals suitably pervade the album and are way more appropriate than any fancy crooning could hope to be. Those eerie chants are perfected on the closer, "Protection," a dreamy and hypnotic tune all full of organs and ghostly vocals. Aside from the trademark Liars atmospherics, heavy guitar sounds are in no short supply throughout. Check out the vicious buzz-saw guitars of "Plaster Casts of Everything" or "Cycle Time." As multi-faceted as any other part of Liars, the imagination shown in the guitar work won't let you down. Multi-tracked octave-fuzz guitars even imitate horns for a spell on "Clear Island."
As enjoyable as it is, I'm not convinced Liars quite qualifies as a classic. It is inspiring, though. And although a number of its elements feel aged when taken singly, you'll certainly find a unique sound in its context. If it seems I'm being a little tough on them, it's Liars own fault for setting the bar so high.