When Liars hit the music scene in 2001, the name of their album and song titles weren't the only thing that seemed a little peculiar to everyone. This was a band that had chewed up the mass of their influences and spit them out in an entirely new fashion. With only one record, they created a buzz that even they couldn't get rid of if they wanted to. Upon arrival of their unique debut release, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, critics and fans alike were fast to realize Liars was stylistically similar to a lot of the other NYC-based bands revitalizing the late '70s/early '80s post-punk dance scene. Even so, while they were immediately pigeonholed into this category, they were able to add an edgy, almost avant-garde boldness that the others were simply not exploring.
The same can also be said for They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. The only thing here that's similar to their debut is that the song titles and album name are still very unique (both albums start with the word "they"). With that aside, the primary thing you'll discover once you listen to this album is that things have drastically changed, for the better. The envelope has been moved in an entirely new direction, and the band wouldn't have it any other way. Liars take great pride in breaking out of the genre-defining boxes they're thrown in. In the same way Radiohead took an impeccable album like OK Computer and stepped into unfamiliar territory with Kid A, Liars have sidestepped the majority of their familiar styles and broken free towards new explorations. Now, I won't go so far as to say They Were Wrong sounds like Kid A, but it definitely gives me the same feelings I had the first time I heard that album.
There's a detached coldness that emanates in They Were Wrong. Perhaps it's due to the fact that a type of German witchcraft, known as Walpurgisnacht, inspired the album. Whatever the reason, the album is very dense, imaginative, and executed with chaotic precision. "Broken Witch" begins with disconnected electronics and a drum machine that has you immediately finding this record more electronic than its predecessors. In many cases, the drums have been played live, recorded, and then manipulated to assist in this concept. "There's Always Room on the Broom" is a distorted beauty with its heavy microphone feedback and high-pitched vocals. The best track, "We Fenced Other Houses with the Bones of Our Own," is easily the most sinuous moment of the album and simply impossible not to compare to the same approach Radiohead took on Kid A. The instrumental "Read the Book That Wrote Itself" is a collection of eerie keyboard sounds with ritualistic drumming and pencil writing. As with They Threw Us All In a Trench, the longest song, "Flow My Tears the Spider Said" is saved until the end of the album. Although I really tried to stay away from this comparison, I can't help but think it's strikingly similar in some ways to The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." It's then slowly faded away to the sounds of birds and minimal instrumentation.
They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is an incredibly tight album, and it's surely going to be one of the year's first greatly admired albums. Each song is independent to the others, yet collectively this album is very cohesive. Since the songs all bare similarities in visual terms, I guess you could say it's a concept album of sorts. If breaking free from their own mold is this band's forte, then I imagine we are going to hear quite an array of sounds in future releases. One thing you'll always be assured of is that Liars show up to give a great and lasting impression whenever they enter the studio. They prove once again that even with their rotation of musicians, they are capable of taking the scene by the hair and utilizing their talents in every way possible to remain one of the most exciting bands around.
1. Broken Witch
2. Steam Rose From the Lifeless Cloak
3. There's Always Room on the Broom
4. If You're A Wizard, Then Why Do You Hear Glasses
5. We Fenced Other Houses with the Bones of Our Own
6. They Don't Want Your Corn, The Want Your Kids
7. Read the Book That Wrote Itself
8. Hold and It Will Happen Anyway
9. The Took 14 for the Rest of Our Lives
10. Flow My Tears the Spider Said