Liars - Mess

by Steve Reynolds Rating:9.5 Release Date:2014-03-24

Liars are pretty bloody special; WIXIW was a fantastic album with its dark slices of noir, pushing all the barriers of dystopian, unsettling, cathartic electronic music. Besides their peers, Fuck Buttons and Factory Floor, there doesn’t really seem to be much competition in being deliberately obtrusive and malevolent in their approach to making records. Some may call what they do niche, (nah, it’s just inventive) and misanthropic towards selling units but I would suggest more ears need to open and embrace what clever and rich creative minds Angus Andrew (vocals/guitar), Aaron Hemphill (percussion, guitar, synth) and Julian Gross (drums) bring to the table. 

New album Mess has a correlation to the preceding WIXIW but this time is much more heavily laced with heavy slamming beats and turned-up-to-11 tirades of electronica with the guitars taking a considerable step out of the limelight. 

Andrews' vocals seem even more distant than usual and his Numan-like delivery, coupled with a moribund eeriness, rises to the occasion, sounding even more uncomfortable than normal.  On opener ‘Mask Maker’ though, he does add some humour and shows Liars for not taking their aesthetics too seriously as his revolting, contorted horror-like vocal coldly bellows: "Take my pants off… Smell my socks off…. Eat my face off" all set to a sinister and relentless pummelling beat, screeching synths and off-key barks.

‘Vox Tuned D.E.D’ is the embodiment of electro post punk, not a guitar in the mist of this track as the brain-mashing synths adopt an industrial style approach, recalling the dark sounds of Front 242 and The Young Gods. Liars have their influences in the past; from no wave pioneers Suicide to early Human League, right through to the goth influences of Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy. But the clean lines of production and the band’s atonal approach makes for a clever but succulent result when you throw all those heavyweight influences together.

Atonal is an apt description of ‘Can’t Hear Well’, with its headfuck of a whoozy synth which flows back and forward from the foreground against Andrews' desperate strains of twaddle. Its intensity and arrangement messes with your head and is uncomfortable on the ears, but still hits the mark if you’re prepared to muscle it out. It’s the total opposite to the bleeps and dots approach on ‘Mess on a Mission’; like a rush of fireflies dashing about the night sky. The beats are skittish and Andrews' doubled-up vocals from the spoken word to the elongated falsetto are simply fantastic whilst he incessantly repeats: ‘Facts are facts/ Fiction's fiction’. 

Liars don’t really make electronic music you can dance to, that’s for sure, but they do have enough nous in their locker to create layered platforms of swampish electronic music that can at times give you the creeps but still hits the spot, for example on ‘Boyzone’ and the brooding ‘Dress Walker’.

They aren’t afraid to push the limits or the patience of the listener either, personified by the nine minutes of ‘Perpetual Village’ with its harrowing lines of creaking synths and scratchy use of bashing tin cans and heavy duty xylophone. Andrews absolutely revels in it though, his austere and terse vocal still makes no sense but adds to the restless unease of the track.

Mess is Liars at their ugliest best. Resplendent in ideas and unwillingness to conform to the norm, instead letting their grumpy and insidious side step to the fore. The true sound of the electronic subterranean is most definitely here.

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