Words About Music
When New York experimental band Liars exploded onto the scene in 2002 with their debut “They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top,” I doubt that anyone expected them to become the type of band that would switch up their style for pretty much album they released. They’ve worked quite a bit with noise, drone, dance punk, electronica, and other strange styles over the past 10 years or so, and their seventh studio album “Mess” represents a further sonic shift in the band. They are continuing in the bleak, dry dance music of their 2012 album “WIXIW,” except this time adding plenty of color, substance, and personality to the electronic instrumentation.
Liars are known for the distance they put between the music and the vocals. Lead vocalist Angus Andrew sounds like a detached Michael Gira most of the time, but can also bring it into the falsetto range if need be. He sounds deranged when he sings on this album, but it also seems like the vocals are hanging a bit closer to the music than they usually do. The incredibly dense synths pulsate and move and, strangely enough, the vocals move with it. This is best evidenced on songs like “Vox Tuned D.E.D.,” and “Mess on a Mission.” It’s still really weird, but it also represents some of Liars’ most accessible work to date, and some of their best since 2006’s “Drum’s Not Dead.”
“Mess” sounds as much like a living organism as it does a robot. It moves through a swamp of color and texture, but does so with the cold calculation of some sort of anti-human. “Mess” is a cyborg. And it’s also incredibly fun to listen to. While I can’t say I agree with every experiment Liars tries, I can say that this one seems to be pretty successful. It almost feels like Liars have been waiting their entire career to write an album like this, but needed to establish a fan base first. “Mess” is anything but. The band is made of some incredible producers and general soundsmiths, and this album is a great example of their ability to continually screw around with atmosphere and genre.
While not every song on “Mess” is a winner, it is a fairly consistent record for the most part. I would like it if the last two songs were a bit shorter as they do get to be a bit boring by the time I reach the end of them, but there’s no song on here I necessarily hate with any sort of passion. While some of Liars’ work is a bit too dissonant or long-winded for my taste, “Mess” manages to be friendly but still definitely a Liars album. And yeah, maybe the vocals aren’t that great every single time, or maybe the synth “riff” doesn’t go anywhere. But these are small prices to pay for a pretty much entirely enjoyable LP.
SCORE – 8.2
FAVORITE TRACKS – Mask Maker, Vox Tuned D.E.D., I’m No Gold, Pro Anti Anti, Mess on a Mission, Darkslide, Boyzone, Dress Walker, Left Speaker Blown