Liars - WIXIW
- By Nick Hagan -
- Jun 19, 2012
If Billy Corgan has an issue with people revering pomposity in music, he should probably avoid Liars.
From their early punk rock days, the LA band has become progressively more arty while maintaining a modicum of media and fan support. Now, on sixth album 'WIXIW' they've reached a destination of obtuse, borderline experimental electronica, with nary a whiff of primal guitar noise to be found.
Your guess is as good as mine pronunciation-wise with this one. But the record's palindrome title does hold a clue to its loftier motifs – ostensibly the symmetry of the internal world, emotions and the bonds we form with others. Something like that, anyway.
Liars' approach on 'WIXIW' seems to be a stoic avoidance of cheap, sugary tricks. The music is consistently slow-burning, grown up and organically presented, and there's a heavy debt to Radiohead and a host of other knob-twiddling pioneers. But, no matter how studied the poses, it's also consistently dull.
Penetrating the semantics isn't helped by frontman Angus Andrew's foggy, frequently low-key vocals. He dabbles with several styles across the record, mumbling and slurring his way through the demented monotony of 'Flood To Flood' or elsewhere doing some Ian Curtis karaoke on compelling first single 'No.1 Against The Rush'.
Which, by contrast to much of 'WIXIW', is a shining beacon of a song – a perfect example of how to paint a shimmering, angular, alternative canvas that seduces the listener as much as it exerts its own individuality.
'Who Is The Hunter' also bucks the trend, foregrounding Andrew's voice as it arcs into a haunting, beautiful melody. Some inventive percussion and dramatic strings gild the track, marking an appealingly clear departure. 'Brats' likewise tips a toe into trance waters with surprisingly impressive results.
But, in spite of these successes, so many songs on 'WIXIW' are exercises in a distinct form of mundanity, as a mediocre groove is found and exhausted – see the twitchy 'A Ring On Every Finger' or Arabian-tinged 'Octagon' for case studies. The music rarely transports you, or inspires anything more than the odd 'hmmm, that's different'.
'Ill Valley Prodigies' brings cawing crow samples and crackly handclap beats to the melting pot, exuding a sort of finely spun, unsettling menace. Further along, 'His And Mine Sensations' has a much more enjoyable, soothing groove behind it, but even then the vibe is very much that of an IT convention - millions of computers number crunching in harmony.
I'll readily admit that my lack of enthusiasm may (at least partly) stem from a weak acquaintance with Liars' development up to this point. However, by the same token I'd argue that if it's good, it's good. You shouldn't need a degree in the Berlin arts scene to dig it, and 'WIXIW's esoteric character is unlikely to convert any non-believers among us.
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