On this eccentric, enigmatic new LP adequately titled Mess, New York dance-punk/experimental outfit Liars prove to everyone (not like they care) that they’re able to keep developing and changing their sound album to album to album, all the while still managing to maintain their own unique identity.
Liars aren’t known for playing by the rules. Ever since their inception back in 2001 they’ve constantly been reinventing their musical palette, and following their own path (or lack thereof). And I know what you’re thinking sarcastically, “they shifted to electronic music, like that’s never been done before,” but they didn’t do so from outside pressure, or influence from their label, or any of that nonsense, Liars shifted into their new found territory naturally and simply because that’s what they felt like doing – and they completely own it.
Imagine helping an old lady cross the street, you’re going to be nice and caring, and most definitely patient as you ease her tender little soul and listen to exciting stories about crocheting and planting flowers her new garden. If Liars were to help an old lady cross the street, they would pick her up, and throw her across the street without a second thought, not even caring to check and see if she made it across okay. Both stories end the same way (except maybe a few cuts and bruises) but she gets across the street all the same. The same thing can be said with how Liars chose to start this sonic onslaught of a record, with creepy-as-hell opener, “Mask Maker.” The lyrics that open this thing “Take my pants off/ Use my socks/ Smell my socks/ Eat my face off,” are unsettling to say the least, and compliment the hauntingly dark, almost gothic sounding synths that are splattered throughout this track, and many others here.
This track is followed by “Vox Tuned D.E.D,” that’s foundation is just as big and in your face as the opener. The instrumentation on this album highlight is built on loud, pulsating synthesizers, that sound like they’re crumbling from the torment and abuse they’ve been put through to make these twisted, demented sounds and textures. The way this track follows the first almost makes them seem like one longer song, with just two slightly different parts that are right in your face, and never let up – not even for one second.
The next major album highlight comes from lead single, and probably the most upbeat and catchy song here, “Mess on a Mission,” which after a slow burner of a track like “Can’t Hear Well”, is a welcomed with open arms. This tracks buildup is so subtle and unsuspecting, that once the impossibly huge chorus reaches you, it seems so much bigger than it’s already impressive spontaneity suggests. The most appropriate dance moves to this oddly danceable track would to be A) Jump up and down furiously B) Awkwardly try to move in cohesive ways and fail miserably C) Flail your arms and legs wildly D) Scratch your head trying figure out how you can dance to this song, or E) All of the above (spoiler alert, the answer is E)
But besides just talking about what comprises the tracks, it’s important to look at the placement of the songs here. These tracks weren’t just thrown down in a random order as would be assumed from the nature of the band, and their music, but they were done so very methodically and purposefully. After an explosive and ass-shaking first couple of tracks, Liars tone things down for a bit so you can really think about what you just heard. However, after they go too far into a more subdued, hypnotic sound, they sucker punch you with the ultra catchy, lead single and get your blood flowing once again. After “Mess on a Mission” gets you pumped and dancing again, they delve back into more glitchy and industrial sounding electronic landscapes before hitting you with the chilled out and much more ambient closers, “Perpetual Village” and “Left Speaker Blown.”
Mess is the type of album you most definitely have to listen to a couple times before you can really start to understand all that your ears are witnessing. Between the fractured synth leads, moaning stalkerish vocals, and apocalyptic instrumentals, Liars prove once again that they’re at the forefront of innovation and experimentation.
Whether you love or you hate them, Liars really couldn’t care less, and that’s what makes Mess easily one of the best releases the 2014.
Written by Jacob Richards