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Liars: Sisterworld

March 11, 2010

I first encountered Liars when they were supporting Sonic Youth in 2002; I remember enjoying them as much as it was possible to enjoy a band who were standing between me and seeing Sonic Youth live for the first time. Back at that time, they seemed to sit quite nicely in the crowded dance-punk pigeonhole, but distinguished themselves somewhat by injecting some welcome abrasiveness and dischord into the template.

Then came They Were Wrong, So We Drowned; an uncompromisingly strange, haunted album concerning witches and Walpurgisnacht. The music was shuddering and percussive, full of banshee howls and diseased croaks – channeling Bad Moon Rising era Sonic Youth and PiL circa Flowers of Romance while adding some peculiar madness of their own. They followed this with the sonically different but similarly challenging Drum’s Not Dead.  By this stage I had them marked as a pretty singular and exciting band, so I was very disappointed when their fourth, self-titled album turned out to be a little… well, shitty. While it is laudable for a band not to rest on their laurels, the switch to a much more straightforward, song-based and heavily JAMC-influenced approach didn’t do much for me.

Their new album, Sisterworld, is thankfully shot through with enough of the old magick to keep things interesting. The scratchy post-punk guitars and fuzzy riffs of the last album are still present, but salted with atmospheric scrapings, eery chimes and unexpected violins. The spooked chorale of Scissor, and the clipped, woozy funk of No Barrier Fun are a great opening one-two, and Drip‘s ambient menace is another highlight. Its still a smoother ride than I’d like, but it makes me hopeful that Liars may once again get sick of the tarmac and head off down the dirt track back into those dark woods.

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