June 5th, 2012 7:34am
They Seem Pretend
I was disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that Liars leader Angus Andrew was not happy with his band’s last album, Sisterworld. I think it’s the band’s best work by far, and the record that synthesizes all the strains of their sound into one cohesive and well-rounded album. “I felt like we weren’t pushing boundaries enough with the sound and making exciting things that way,” he told Pitchfork. “Our focus was more on ‘songwriting,’ but it felt standard. I hated the idea of being related to blues.” So, of course, they went and made a very self-conscious electronic record. Andrew and I are around the same age, so I totally get this feeling – around the late 90s, there was this sense that rock music was something to be embarrassed about, that songwriting as an end to itself was limiting, and that electronic music was the answer to everything. This is the line of thinking that created Radiohead’s Kid A, and is central to the aesthetic of Animal Collective.
My point is: People have been thinking like this for a long time, so Liars’ move on WIXIW seems very quaint to me. They were embarrassed by making music that was arguably uncool, so they doubled down on the coolest influences around, or at least stuff like Krautrock and Brian Eno that are so evergreen in their coolness that no one would ever challenge it. The music on WIXIW is often excellent – “No. 1 Against the Rush,” the most overtly Eno-ish track, is among their best songs ever – but I can’t really engage with the music without sensing the band’s insecurity, or feeling that their idea of challenging, forward-thinking art is at least a decade or so behind the curve. They’re pushing boundaries in pretty much the same way as a lot of artists over the past three decades; is that so different from “being related to the blues”? Sisterworld was a record made by a band who seemed comfortable being themselves; WIXIW sounds like someone getting a makeover to fit in. It’s no accident that the best parts of the record are the bits that sound exactly like Liars.
Buy it from Amazon.