I'm just going to come out and say it: Liars are the most thoughtful, provocative, and ultimately important band currently in operation. I know that a lot of folks will take issue with this statement, but they achieve something that few challenging acts ever do. Liars exist so successfully in the realm of underground/indie rock that they actually have attracted an audience that is challenged by their incendiary take on music. The hubbub over They Were Wrong, So We Drowned made record reviews and record store chatter a delight to behold. It was a truly divisive release that had naysayers fervently decrying the lack of musicality and supporters calling it the most important record of the year. Now that's what I call rock 'n' roll.
Obviously I fell into the "most important record" camp on the last release, and I have to admit that I'm there again with Drum's Not Dead. While its predecessor may be even less approachable, this new entry still has plenty of noise feasts for those who are looking. Immediately following the blissful meditation of "Be Quiet Mt. Heart Attack," "Let's Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack" starts with a muted war cry and a rumbling double tom-tom attack that eventually builds to cataclysmic proportions. However, there is a more songcentric quality to the entire effort, with very little cacophony existing without some counterpoint of melody. In fact, for those who have only heard They Were Wrong, this album may seem surprisingly tame at first, but beneath the veneer is a wealth of delicately constructed songs with many layers to offer.
"It Fit When I Was a Kid" functions as the first single and deservedly so. In its four minutes, it perfectly captures the careful balancing act that Liars are pulling off over the course of the entire album. Over a restrained bass and tom bed, the vocals move menacingly, "I jumped a neighbor's fence at dawn/ Danced my way across your lawn/ Used a diamond on the glass/ Slithered slowly through the dark." The tone is absolutely creepy. An organ line enters, at first amplifying the sinister quality, but soon the vocals move to a higher register and the song takes on a fragile beauty. This dichotomy of ugly/beauty exists throughout the album. There are entire tracks, particularly the opener "Be Quiet Mt. Heart Attack" and the closer "The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack," that sparkle as jewels of aural opulence, and there are others, like "Let's Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack," that are decidedly dark.
This back-and-forth tension is appropriate given the overarching concept (although Liars don't want this to be understood as a concept album) of the struggle between the opposing forces of open creative energy and stultifying self-doubt, which they call respectively "Drum" and "Mt. Heart Attack." Okay, so obviously there is a willful abstruseness to these names, but the idea is potent and entirely apt, making for a hell of a treatise on the creative process. Only three albums into their existence, this level of introspection into the trouble of artistry is quite simply impressive. So come now fans of insidious and wily (yet cerebral) rock, Liars have delivered just what you need...even if you don't realize it yet.
1. Be Quiet Mt. Heart Attack
2. Let's Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack
3. A Visit From Drum
4. Drum Gets a Glimpse
5. It Fit When I Was a Kid
6. The Wrong Coat For You Mt. Heart Attack
7. Hold You, Drum
8. It's All Blooming Now Mt. Heart Attack
9. Drum and The Uncomfortable Can
10. You, Drum
11. To Hold You, Drum
12. The Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack