Liars – WIXIW

Not unlike Radiohead, Liars has always been one of those accessible rock bands that borders on the inaccessible, always scouring the surfaces of the experimental pools, collecting influences from the avant-garde, and working those abstract sensibilities into structured rock songs.  With previous efforts, the band dipped a toe here and there, shyly gauging the temperature and effects of the pool on the larger body.  But with WIXIW, Liars has waded all the way out to the deep end.  And while not fully submerged, the band is definitely wetter than ever.  And to establish a proper credibility with this effort, they even enlisted noise artist John Wiese (whose recent record Seven of Wands featured Liars members) to create the album’s cover art.  They must really be going “out there” this time around.  Well, no, that is unfortunately not the case.

Perhaps what is most tragic about Liars’ latest effort to reinvent themselves is that they have subscribed to an exhausted perspective that sees new experimental music to be inevitably electronic.  The aggro-rock elements have thus disappeared, and while the band’s notoriously dark atmosphere remains, it merely hangs as  a murky cloud over a desolate landscape throughout the 11 tracks of the minimal and droney record.

This is not to say WIXIW is not a good album.  It does exactly what it said it would do, which is to defy your expectations of this complicated group.  But subjectively speaking, it might have been nice for the latest offering to not only defy our expectations, but to also defy current trends in music production, relieving our tired ears of the overplayed murmurs of indie electronic pop and pitter-pat drum machines.  But perhaps this is where all music that aspires to be relevant must direct itself, even the defiant music.  Perhaps it is unattractively classicist to not acquiesce one’s self to the modern era of futurism.  But are we really still pushing forward within these contexts?  Are new ideas and sensations being explored, or are common elements simply being rearranged?

WIXIW features a lot of the unconventional song structures and stylings that were both praised and criticized on their sophomore effort They Were Wrong, So We Drowned.  But there is something undeniably organic about the group’s aesthetics that seems to suffocated under the ephemeral production trends that have been applied to it.  Putting Mute Records founder Daniel Miller and Grammy winning engineer Tom Biller in the studio with the band was perhaps a mistake.  A truly defiant record would have been more attainable had the band elected John Wiese to do more than the cover art.

-April Davis


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