The Tenebrous Liar - Jackknifed & Slaughtered

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2010-01-25

The Tenebrous Liar have been knocking around for a few years, but this album may be the one which brings them some substantial attention. It's an eloquent expression of desperation, despair and impotent, pent up male rage put to music like jagged splinters of shattered glass. Musically, the band has two distinct modes: there's the full on punk ire of 'No Guiding Light' and 'Suffer You'; songs which manifest themselves as violent spasms of ugly, antisocial noise and bring to mind a more mature, jaded Gallows. But, as was the case with Joy Division, there's another, more fragile side to The Tenebrous Liar, an expansive miserablism, redolent of empty slum streets and crumbling tenement blocks, which stretches over songs like the bereft-sounding title track and 'Nothing is Plenty', which starts out hushed before mutating into a churning, squirming monster. Like Bowie's Low, these songs make up the second half of the album, giving it a 'two act' feel and a compelling sense of righteous anger sliding into helpless sorrow.

The songs that make up this second half are the album's best, slipping out of rockist thrash to explore more interesting, post-rock dynamics, such as 'No Relief's teetering, almost unraveling lullaby, or the lazy, lachrymose chant the forms the chorus of 'Freedom Resign', a song that you feel would tear apart the world if it could raise itself from its broken blues. Unfortunately, it's the earlier songs which let the album down a little. Too many of them veer away from the bleeding punk heart which you sense is their origin towards a middle ground of competent riffarama which fails to hold the attention.

This is a shame, since The Tenebrous Liar obviously feel they have something to say. Menacing first track 'Suffer You', with its mentions of "kids kill(ing) kids" and barbs directed at someone with "avarice of power", seems a pretty clear state-of-the-nation address, but its impact is negated somewhat by singer Steve Gullick's overuse of expletives. Obviously, this is meant to underline the seriousness of the scenario, but it comes off as rather adolescent. It's not a problem confined to the first half's more bilious songs, either: on the title track Gullick howls that his "patience is raped", which sounds not only a tad melodramatic but would probably be a bit offensive to the ears of anyone who's experienced a genuine sexual attack. It's lyrics such as this, in common with Nirvana's infamous 'Rape Me', which reveal the limits of our language when it comes to expressing feelings of powerlessness as experienced by the modern male. Sooner or later, blatantly or subtlety, one has to resort to referring to oneself as 'the bitch'. Again, a shame since Gullick is a damn fine vocalist. His thick, disconsolate croon, sounding like no one so much as Richard Butler from The Psychedelic Furs, is always perfectly in tune with the emotions he wishes to convey.

By no means a perfect record, Jackknifed & Slaughtered is good enough to grant The Tenebrous Liar a place as the band you're most likely to reach for should your life fall utterly to pieces.

Richard Morris

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