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The Liars' new album is on fire

photo courtesy of mute records
The Liars may not be critics' darlings after their more difficult sophomore release. They also may not appeal to fans of their first album, but the guys couldn't care less. I mean, this guy dates Karen O.
By Mark Sussman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 1, 2004
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If there were a list of music journalism's most inarticulate clichˇs, the term "sophomore slump" would appear somewhere between "Beatles-esque pop" and "soulful vocals." Thusly, any band that finds itself lucky enough to release a second record can look forward to a slew of cut-and-paste reviews touting the brilliance of the debut and the mediocrity of the follow-up.

Unless you're the Liars.

If you're the Liars, everybody loved your first record - 2002's They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top - when it came out because, besides being a great album, it documented the sounds coming out of the ultra-hip Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y. You found yourself slapped with another clichˇd superlative: "critics' darlings."

But you're not really the Liars. In fact not even all of the Liars are still the Liars; bassist Pat Nature and drummer Ron Albertson both left the band last year. And if you were the Liars, you would have to deal with a sometimes less than receptive response to this year's They Were Wrong So We Drowned and a growing sentiment that the Williamsburg scene is dead. And it's your fault.

If you go ...

The Liars are playing with Young People and the Get Hustle at Solar Culture,
31 E. Toole Ave. on Tuesday for $10.

Angus Andrew, who is really the vocalist for the Liars, doesn't mind some of the more ambivalent reactions to the new record.

"In the end, I think it makes things pretty interesting," said Andrew in his Aussie drawl. "I think it's really exciting to be in a position where people are forced to make a statement on the work you've made and really take a stand on it. I enjoy the relationship with the media, and I don't shy away from learning from it. I think that some of the big people like Rolling Stone and Spin find it a really difficult record to listen to, and I think that's pretty interesting."

The negative reactions are understandable in some ways. They Were Wrong smatters sporadically recognizable instrumental howls and screams against dry, icy sonic backgrounds. Angus' lyrics conjure images of witches around bonfires, angry villagers, and "blood, blood, blood." Listening to the record is, at best, a harrowing experience. Most people probably just didn't expect a record about witchcraft.

But the record isn't just about pagan rites and satanic verses.

"The fact that America was invading Iraq just as we were recording this record had its influences," said Andrew. "What was particularly interesting was the night we were focused on, Walpurgis Night (April 31), which is the night that witches gather to celebrate the end of winter. It's kind of the last hurrah before spring. May 1 was the day that Bush went out on the aircraft carrier and declared war on Iraq."

Certainly, a record about witches and witch hunting resonates with Patriot Act-era America, and with media looking for someone to blame for the perceived gentrification of an indie haven.

"I think it's unfortunate," said Andrew, "that some people have jumped on our record as being a sort of symbol of the end of (Williamsburg). But I think there are a lot of great bands playing in Brooklyn. In terms of media hype, maybe they've had enough. Maybe they've moved on to greener pastures."

While media hype may be as ephemeral as smoke from a bonfire, the Liars didn't need mainstream press to make their first record great. They certainly don't need them now.

The Liars are playing with Young People and the Get Hustle at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Tuesday for $10.

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