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 411mania » Music » Album Reviews

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Liars - Mess Review
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 03.26.2014





Liars are:
Angus Andrew – vocals/guitar
Aaron Hemphill – guitars/synths
Julian Gross – drums



LiarsMess


Track listing:
1. Mask Maker
2. Vox Tuned D.E.D.
3. I'm No Gold
4. Pro Anti Anti
5. Can't Hear Well
6. Mes On a Mission
7. Darkslide
8. Boyzone
9. Dress Walker
10. Perpetual Village
11. Left Speak Blown
Running time: 55:42

“Fun, instinctual and confident” is how frontman, lead vocalist and guitar maestro Angus Andrew described the recording sessions during the making of Liars seventh studio album, titled Mess, and that's an adequate description of the record on the whole. Liars are a band hat has been known to shift drastically in styles from one album to the next, but the band has always maintained a key focus of dance and rhythm while experimenting with numerous different sound textures. That tends to be the case here, with the band seemingly taking a more organic approach to proceedings and the result is an album that is crammed with numerous different sounds and one that will reward the listener the more times they listen to the record from start to finish. Mess is an appropriate title baring in the mind the numerous different directions the songs take off in, but it's a controlled frenzy of erratic behaviours that enchants the listener throughout suggesting that perhaps Mess should be short for Mesmerise.

From the band's origins routed in the dance-punk wave gaining traction at the turn of the Century in Brooklyn to the present day, Liars are a band that have continued to evolve before our very eyes from one record to the next. That continues to be the case here, and listening to Mess is like watching the ape-man crawl out of the ocean and along the shore as he transforms into a fully-fledged man. And once that transformation is complete, the man exudes confidence, as Liars do here. Mess is the band's longest record to date, clocking in at an ambitious 56 minutes and that's no coincidence. The band is as experimental here as ever before and they offer almost too much of a good thing here, seemingly unsure of when to reign things in. But on the whole Mess is anything but. The band has begun to truly come into is own as they come to terms with electronic music, a genre they've only really been dabbling in for the past four or five years. But now they seem to be in a groove as they attempt to offer something that strives to be epic, and even if they may fall just a tad short, it's certainly a pretty good attempt.

“Take my pants off / eat my socks / eat my face off,” croons Angus Andrew on the record's opening cut, “Mask Maker.” It's a tremendously bizarre opening salvo that gives way to pounding bass and urgent pounded keys with Hemphill at the centre of things. It's an opening track that starts and stutters with enigmatic pulses that ebb and flow, building to one crescendo after another. The track really sets the tone for a downbeat journey into the psyche of an artist that is to follow. From the outset, Andrew's lyrics are somewhat indiscernible, but that's all part of the charm. When you do eventually begin to crack his code you get to the very depths of Mess that wallows in the misery of modern-day society but eventually manages to fight through and bask in its glory. While the moments of electro-bliss found in the early parts of the record serve as a shimmering showcase of how the band has taken its former garage-rock sound into a more electronic and EDM-influenced direction, it's all a bit pedestrian and predictable until the band decide to really slow the pace and offer something a little bit more subtle. Take, for example, in the interrupting organ groans on “Pro Anti Anti” and the way it permeates the subconscious. Then there are the much more unorthodox compositions on the album's two closing encounters, “Perpetual Village” and “Left Speaker Blown,” which clock in at a combined 16 minutes. The whole thing could easily have been presented as one continuous piece of music, but we'll settle for the broken tones of the tracks as they are. They offer a adventure in and of themselves, one that revisits albums of the band's past, all the while taking us to the next level and leaving us to ponder what comes next from the New York trio.

For a band that, on previous record WIXIW, was clearly learning on the fly how to incorporate these new electronic sounds into their already vast soundscapes, Mess does surprisingly well of making sure that the music is dictated by Andrew and co. rather than getting lost in transition. And while it's clear that some things have changed and will continue to change, this is something fans of the band will be used to by now, or at least should be. What anchors Mess as a Liars record is the deep, morose tones of vocalist Angus Andrew, who's lyrics offer a story all their own, if you want to take the time to figure them all out. Furthermore, the band's trajectory has always seen them trying new things but the majority of those things have failed to force Liars into the public zeitgeist despite the obvious talents on offer – Liars have never been the most accessible band and that's not something that's changed here, but Mess does offer a strong alternative for people who like catchy music but aren't necessarily into the whole shift to EDM that's permeated the charts in recent years. It's not a shift so far to the other side that people will be left out in the cold, but fans of acts like Fuck Buttons will likely find this all a bit tame. Still, it's a respectable effort and one that you can't help but admire. Liars have once again but their all into a record and come out the other side with all their credibility in tact.



Liars - “Mess On a Mission”


The 411: Liars' seventh studio offering Mess is the next logical step in the band's progression. It further explores the electronic elements that were dabbled in on predecessor WIXIW but it also features the gutsy aggression of the band's earliest material. It's an amalgamtion of the band's origins with a more than healthy smattering of the tricks of the trade they've picked up along the way. There's deep, melancholy tones scattered throughout the record and that's what makes Mess really shine, but there's also plenty of more eclectic, bouncy rhythms that keep the whole project moving. It's likely not a record that will receive much critical attention outside of the hearty pat on the back that Liars typically receive but it is another solid addition to a band's back catalogue that probably deserves a little bit more respect than it garners.
 
Final Score:  7.0   [ Good ]  legend





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