Liars Sisterworld(Mute U.S.) Buy it from Insound
If Sisterworld is really a concept album about L.A., then I don’t want to go. When these guys turn their eyes on a subject, one thing’s for sure, it ain’t gonna be pretty. So you know this isn’t going to sound like the Beach Boys. This is more like the David Lynch, second half of Mulholland Dr, homeless guy behind the dumpster version of the City of Angels. This isn’t the first time the band has sought a specific place for inspiration. Last time it was Berlin, which has its own share of soul-numbing soundtracks. But in the year 2010, the story is the slow death of the American dream, and nowhere are you going to get closer to and witness more shattered hopes and dreams than in Los Angeles. The waitresses who would be Julia Roberts, the gardeners who would be Don Henley, its gotta be a major bummer. I’m an East Coaster, so this is right up my alley, but half of Liars are Angelinos so to hear such a testament of despair in their own hometown is a little surprising - though not too surprising, since as I mentioned, these guys don’t do You Light up My Life.
In terms of style, there is a consistency in sound between this and the previous records, with a slightly less claustrophobic vibe this time out. Some will describe it as “poppier” but that’s kind of absurd if not downright misleading. More accessible? Mmmmmmmaybe, but let’s not get carried away. What makes this band great is their ability to go where we don’t want them to go and then to linger, until it’s time to leave. I could be wrong, but I see their whole project as a humanist/existentialist experiment in sound. Maybe this is a redundancy, since perhaps rock is the ultimate nihilist expression of our age. You may make soul music for God, but you don’t rock for God. That would be totally ridiculous, and probably an insult to boot. When you make music this primal, you kind of have to assume a primal man, not a mythology that has man mastering agriculture in a single generation. No, this man does not have dominion over the animals, he is one himself. Liars have steadfastly refused to embellish their songs with fancy arrangements or even verse/chorus structures and I think this is because they don’t trust the artifice, which is an appropriate point of view to have while examining Hollywood and its environs.
I searched in vain for lyrics to Sisterworld, because I think they might just be important. One song whose lyrics say it all is Scarecrows on a Killer Slant. “Why’d you pass the bum on the street?” “Why’d you shoot the man with the gun?” The answer to both questions? “Cuz he bothered you!” Not a pretty picture. Nor is the proposed solution – “stand’em in the street with a gun, and then kill’em all”. It doesn’t get much bleaker than that. In another chilling and exhilarating moment, on the song Proud Evolution, they chant “you should be careful”, over and over again, in case you missed the message in this, one of the most intriguing pieces of music they have laid down. Again, they admirably say as little as possible, yet somehow get the message across. It’s an amazing gift in this day and age, when every wanna-be reality star climaxes at the sound of their own voice, to be concise and minimalist, and I have to say I love them for it. You could criticize them for being simple-minded, but that would get it completely backwards. Sometimes the smartest thing to do is shut the fuck up before you say anything stupid.
They leave us with Too Much, Too Much, which is as close to soothing and hopeful as this band gets. Still, the reverberation causes so much dissonance that the end result is deeply unsettling. Man I wish I knew what they were saying. Is that “I am dead” at the end? Maybe it wasn’t so hopeful after all. Maybe it’s just an anesthetic to relieve the dying. Now that I think of it, this song is preceded by Goodnight Everything, that tells us “soon the falling sun will make it dark”. “Falling sun” - damn, that’s poetry. And it’s all you really need to know.19 March, 2010 - 19:53 — Alan Shulman