Album Reviews

Liars – Sisterworld

(Mute) UK release date: 8 March 2010

Liars have spent the majority of their career never quite settling on a particular sound or easily definable style. They’ve preferred to explore their whims and sounds that interest them, and each and every album they release is a new sonic adventure.

For this album, a shift in direction was not the only thing required. This time around, the band have shifted their headspace and created a world of their own – Sisterworld.

In part influenced by frontman Angus Andrew’s experiences in Los Angeles, Sisterworld serves as an ugly reflection of the apparent glamour of the City of Angels and exposes the more sinister underworld that bubbles beneath the surface.

Opening up the album with Scissor, Liars lay the concept of the album out right from the off, splicing the unpleasant with what little rays of light they can find. A gentle spiritual vocal drifts across a sorrowful cello and a piano that tumbles from the speakers like the last drips of summer rain. That the lyrics deal in something more sinister (“I found her with my scissor…I leave this blood to dry”) is eventually borne out by the frantic garage rock that interjects, adding a freaked out chaos to proceedings. It’s reminiscent of Nick Cave at his most aggressive, or Gallon Drunk armed with a hammer and murderous intent.

The murderous theme is continued later on with frantic surf sound of Scarecrows on A Killer Slant. Inspired by a murder witnessed by Andrew it is perhaps unsurprisingly bullnecked and forceful. “We should take the creeps out at night…nail their thoughts to the wall…and then kill them all” Andrew bellows as the guitars splinter in rage behind him and the bass pounds the street like a heavily armed vigilante gang. It is the sound of frustration and anger that brings the narrator down to the level of everything that he is railing against.

Sisterworld, however, is not just a collection of aggressive blasts. Liars are content to unsettle by whatever means necessary. Drip is a creeping ambient soundscape that whispers barbed nothings and slips under the skin like a parasitic worm. The haunting industrial noise that provides the song’s basis is not dissimilar to the Eraserhead soundtrack. Brutality has never been so delicate.

No Barrier Fun features some unpleasantly ambiguous lyrics set against a tune straight from the Eels songbook. If Eels were ever commissioned to create a musical version of Japanese gore movie Flower Of Flesh And Blood, this would be the theme song.

The orchestral nature of Goodnight Everything crashes the ugly into the beautiful and creates a wonderful mess. The haunting bassoon and woodwind that introduce the song are soon bullied into submission by searing guitar parts and crashing drums. As the track progresses they reassert their authority, punching through the doom-laden mix to drive the song towards a climax that simply erupts.

The droning abstraction of Too Much, Too Much closes things in a manner that would be fairly familiar to fans of My Bloody Valentine. The band take the hippy practice of putting flowers in your hair and twist it into something filled with malice.� For a brief moment they seem to offer an insight into the way that Charles Manson viewed the era of peace and love. It’s an ethereal end to an album that is both exhausting and exhilarating. Sisterworld is, in musical terms, an interesting place to visit, but you’d definitely not choose to live there.

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