The lifespan of bands typically follow one of two trajectories. If lucky, they’re hyped to the top by critics and fans, then inevitably crash back down either to comfortable reruns of what’s gone before, or worse, faddy irrelevance. Liars began existence hidden in a post punk trench, slowly drowning in steady adulation, before locating a witch’s broomstick and soaring magically to the experimental heavens, gradually losing founding members as they pursued their indie rock ascent. By the time it was just former front man Angus Andrew at the helm, the wax had begun to melt from their drum skin wings and their once iconic artistic output began to nosedive.
That is to say, their last couple of releases lacked the drive and urgency of their earlier work. This is something Andrew appears to have been acutely aware of, as for The Apple Drop, he’s gone back to collaborating, this time with instrumentalist Cameron Deyell and jazz drummer Lawrence Pike of the group Szun Waves. Recent single, the electronic agitations Sekwar, its title and lyrics perhaps alluding to pop cultural Icarus William Shatner’s Tekwar franchise, finds Andrew lamenting his reputation as a “juiced up, worn out, sad sack” asking “can you tell me what I used to know?” Pike and Deyell seem to have clued Andrew in, as in the video the antipodean bon vivant straps a flashlight to his skull and goes spelunking, hoping to illuminate what had initially made them underground darlings.
Allegories and allusions are awash from these Platonic cave based revelations and Shatnerisms through to that Newtonian album title. By far the biggest rediscovery is the band’s ability to write off-kilter squirrely rock melodies. Andrew brings back that dry Thurston Moore like drawl on tracks like the trepidatious Slow and Turn Inward, the aggressive My Pulse To Ponder, the jangling From What The Never Was and rambling Big Appetite. Then on King of The Crooks, replete with the sound of dripping grotto droplets, he goes whole hog for a woozy Dean Martin schmaltzy delivery, noticing that finally his “hangups have gone”.
Using Pike’s phenomenal drumming to echo locate their way around the dank environs, and Deyell’s Grammy winning exaggerations to adorn the darkness with flickering light rather than finding themselves trapped and running out of air, the group has unearthed an expansive and warm subterranean sister world. Paradoxically, with this remapping of the concealed, Liars have not only been reborn creatively, they’ve emerged with by far the most accessible album of the band’s illustrious career to date.