Music Reviews
Drums Not Dead

Liars Drums Not Dead

(Mute) Rating - 9/10

Let us travel back to the heady days of 2002 when the Liars stood at the vanguard of the revitalized dance-punk movement that would explode with Franz Ferdinand up through the Arctic whatevers, to the point where we all are starting to regret the formation of the Gang of Four back in 1977. Listening to their debut, They Threw Us All In a Trench and Stuck a Monument On Top, we can easily hear where they actually ended up as well as what beckoned. Despite claims from some observers that they walked away from burgeoning success, all the signs were there. And now, with Drums not Dead, we see that what might have seemed like a right angle turn on the sophomore They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, was actually a smooth, if perhaps exponential, curve.

Though ostensibly a concept album about witches and Walpurgisnacht, They Were Wrong was actually a brilliant, anti-intellectual exercise. On it, the Liars distilled everything down to the rawest of raw fundamentals leaving only thumping rhythms, groans and monotone noise. I absolutely loved it. Even though it was culled from the same elements as their debut, it was so boiled down and so extreme that it certainly came across as a radical departure, causing the more cultivated ears at Rolling Stone to turn up their noses. As if the Liars gave a crap. In fact, that may be what I love about them the most; a steadfast refusal to compromise and the goods to back it up.

Drums not Dead is a variation on the same minimalist theme. Again, there is supposedly some concept about the battle between creativity and self doubt, represented respectively by the characters Drum and Mt. Heart Attack. Ordinarily, I'd respond to such pretension with a pithy "whatever", but I think there is something here that gets to what the Liars are trying to do. On They Were Wrong, the band's conceptual framework allowed them to explore the mysteries of sex and other primitive urges by focusing on a rite that sprung from these roots. Here, the Liars take on the subconscious workings that produce art. Regardless of how well you think they manifest this Jungian landscape, the main point is that they are trying to make truly primitive rock music about the wonder of being human. While our brains may study themselves for centuries, run tests and write books, the Liars albums will do just as well, because in them lies the Zen understanding that when we shut out all the talk and the nonsense we are left with the way, the Tao, the crossroad where our minds meet reality.

What you find on Drums not Dead is a stripping away of mannerism, of calculation, of structure, of all but the most basic instincts. There are melodies, but they are rudimentary, static, and surprisingly beautiful. The songs stop and start in surprising, yet natural ways. Everything not organic has been discarded. If you let it, this music will travel directly to your reptile brain, giving your neocortex a much needed rest. I hope I'm making it clear that though I get off on all this craziness, it's certainly not for everybody, and your mind probably needs to be open to an almost dangerous degree to allow the Liars to seep in. But for anyone who believes in the mystical power of music as therapy for the bombardment of annoying reality, Drums not Dead is just what the doctor ordered.