EIght years ago or so, my uncle lent me a book called The Secret History of Rock by Roni Sarig, which profiled a ton of band and artists who had--as the title implied--secretly helped develop the sounds used by the artists I listened to at the time. Sarig focused on artists as diverse as Slint and Van Dyke Parks and Erik Satie and The Last Poets and Flipper and traced their lineage through to Nirvana and 2Pac and Soul Coughing. This was mind-blowing, of course, in the way that retroactively witnessing the development of an idea over time is always mind-blowing.
Now, of course, there’s not even the potential for secret history of rock. The internet sheds light on everything, with the methods discovering music growing exponentially. The artists on our list who would never have found an audience even as little as three years ago—Lil’ Wayne, for example, and Beirut—have gotten the attention they deserve online. As a by-product, we often get to see the formerly invisible process by which an artist becomes a visionary. Also, as we know well by now, the internet is fickle. This is where the Liars show up.
Over the course of three albums, Liars have made that
leap. 2002’s They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top chased
fashionable dance-punk, got swept into a scene with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and
reached an unfadeable zenith with “Mr. Your On Fire Mr.” Four years later, Drum’s Not Dead is an unclassifiable behemoth of an album. Tribal rhythms and chanting create a sense of
extreme compression. Everything comes
across as stunningly simple—even obvious—but sounds like absolutely nothing
More than just a monumental album, though, Drum’s Not Dead establishes Liars as a new breed of artist. The experimenters and influencers in The Secret History of Rock had no one watching when they failed. Years later the risk-taking received the attention it deserved. Liars, on the other hand, attempt to be Secret History-caliber artists, but do it in full view of the public. Their middle album, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned—widely regarded as a disaster on the scale of Metal Machine Music—undeniably helped develop the sound they achieve on Drum’s Not Dead. To make such a critical comeback at a time when failure can be career-ending, and to do it by creating an entirely new sound—well, that’s unprecedented. We look forward to hearing what they do next.
-Marty Brown, 2006
There's nothing really fun about drone music--regardless of what anybody says, you'd be hard pressed to find relatively sane individuals who are excited to start their day with Om or Orthhelm. Unless one has a lot of experience with the actual mechanics of making music, which this writer doesn't, than drone is something that's far more interesting as an object than anything else. One listens to it just to see if it's understandable, to see if it's something beyond just noise--and people who do that usually should be doing something more constructive, like breakfast. Some people like to make that arguement about the Drum: that it's an album that's constructed of things that aren't really cohesive songs, that don't fall into place. They couldn't be more mistaken.
When the Liars first showed up with Trench, they were described as post-punk, and due to Stooge-like similarites (wall-like sound, aggro-lyrics and a weird kind of pop song structure) this was a pretty apt description. The follow up album, 2004's They Were Wrong was universally loathed by critics (an exciting occurence in itself: critics were far more divided regarding the aural assualt of Wolf Eyes and previous no-wave revivals from the SYR series--but everybody, from Spin to Pitchfork, hated the Liars in 2004) and was, even to those who enjoyed, a hell of a difficult listen. Instead of jettisoning the Wrong sound, the Liars completely jettisoned everything from Trench that didn't work, brought the vocals up a bit, and made They Were Wrong, again. This time, it worked. Whether it's because Drum's Not Dead has more, ahem, percussion, or whether it's because it loosely creates a larger thematic story, Drum's Not Dead got rave reviews. It deserves them all: it's one of the strongest artistic statements any band made in 2006. The Liars made drone/noise/rock/art/punk music, they made it listenable, they made it intelligent, and they made it exciting.
Buying cd's is a stupid waste of money--everybody knows it. Drum's Not Dead was worth the money for one sole reason: the DVD. If you profess to dig the album, and you still haven't sat through Drum's Not Bread, one of the three album length companion pieces, than get ready to be happy. To those who didn't really dig the album due to noise complaints, get ready to be even happier. Although straight-up performance footage takes the backseat to cheap music video tricks, watching the three man crew in the studio does occur, and it's fascinating, educational stuff. While the films have less to do with the story of Mt. Heart Attack and Drum, the enthustiatic confusion that takes up the album's over-arching story, the films are must watches for anyone with interest in the Liars.
-Tucker Stone, 2006
The best recommendation for someone looking for something like The Liars is for that someone to catch the Liars live: this writer did, and it was the best live show of the year.