Review: Liars – WIXIW
Published on June 28th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Liars’ sixth album oversees another stylistic shift, this time ditching the relatively organic instrumentation of 2010’s striking Sisterworld LP and ploughing a largely electronic furrow. It works a treat.
“The Exact Colour of Doubt” gets things underway with swirling waves of analog synth pad ambience, soft vocals and oddly sporadic percussion that sounds as if it’s trying to start up like a faultering car, before the brooding, menacing, softly pounding electronica of “Octagon” satisfies the senses with a squelchy and full rhythm section that shuffles along on a commanding two-note bass line, the likes of which could have underpinned some vacuous Euro-pop hit but infiltrates itself seamlessly into this sinister setting.
Angus Andrew’s detached vocal is barely perceptible, concealing nonsensical acid lyrics about its person in a way that remains compelling, and the whole thing never quite bursts into the sudden frenzy that it threatens to. Tension and release, eh? WIXIW is more the former, lacking as it does the thrashier likes of Sisterworld‘s “Scissor”, “Scarecrows on a Killer Slant” or “The Overachievers”, but it resides in the darkness, watching you, quite conceivably reading your mind. They’re not the first band to take electronica into paranoid places – in fact, Depeche Mode and latter-day Radiohead would appear to be strong influences here – but by gum they do it well.
“No. 1 Against the Rush” is a motorik breeding ground of darkly luxurious synthery, a kind of cross between Moon Duo and The Twilight Sad’s latest album, but less repetitive than the former and more psychedelic than the latter, imbued with at least a slither of lightness by the airy, Steve Mason-y vocal.
The barmy, Soca-ish “A Ring on Every Finger” vaguely brings to mind Animal Collective with its synaesthetically delightful use of electronics, masterfully layering chopped-up vocal samples to the kind of disorienting effect that made The Beta Band’s “The House Song” so wonderful.
“Ill Valley Prodigies” then swarms its own mix with exotic bird noises and distorted clapping, part doomy lament part sound collage, before the title track’s nebulously swirling arpeggios lead into a thrilling percussive breakdown, synths whirring like My Bloody Valentine guitars as Andrew sings ostensibly of lost love. Aesthetically, though, this ain’t no love song.
“His and Mine Sensations” is a delicious track, twinkly yet pounding in its nocturnal splendour, while the boingingly/buzzingly bonkers march of “Flood to Flood” – boingingly/buzzingly bonkers march implores us to “teach me how to be a person”, indeed sounding like a mad robot beseeching you through the medium of his strangely funky mechanical dance. It’s safe to safe there’s not going to be an awful lot of stuff this year that sounds anything like this, which is a shame insofar as this is what pop music was supposed to sound like in 2012 all along, not One sodding Direction
“I only wanted more” points out “Who Is the Hunter”, the sinister ruefulness of which gives way to a dark, clubby pulse and then, curiously enough, a steel drum, paving the way for “Brats” to sort the freaks from the teeny-boppers on the dance floor by dint of its sheer, unsettling oddness.
Just as Sisterworld floated off on “Too Much, Too Much”, so WIXIW does with “Annual Moon Words”, which with its wistfully acoustic strum, ploughing bass and ’60s guitar flourishes is comfortably the most ‘normal’ sounding thing on the record. That doesn’t mean it’s not still mesmerising – heck, it sounds like Magical Mystery Tour/Yellow Submarine-era Beatles in a particularly mellowed-out moment – and it makes for a suitably unsuitable close to this fascinating collection.
The melding of styles here feels entirely natural, as if every element has been assimilated instinctively through the kind of truly open-minded approach all too lacking amongst the reams of ‘dance-rock’ bands queuing up to sound like little else other than a now-dated brainstorm. Liars needn’t deceive you – they’re just being Liars. Thank goodness for that.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
WIXIW is out now on Mute Records. For more information, please visit liarsliarsliars.com