Let’s get this out there, right now: who makes music that matters anymore? Who’s making the stuff that’s meant for alleviating the songwriter’s burdens more than anything else - more than hopes of getting picked up by indie/alt radio, or finally making the crossover to mainstream radio? Let’s not be too pessimistic - we live in a time of greats. But unfortunately, some of those greats have been shuffling along (noisily, loudly) to hardly the following they deserve. [Bands like Wolf Parade, an outfit that toured with Arcade Fire in their rising heydey, who are on hiatus now because Dan Boeckner is making music with Divine Fits - a moniker that gets just a smidge more noticed due to the extra starpower added by Spoon’s Britt Daniel.]
Okay. I’m (we’re) not trying to say that Liars’ new album Mess is a breakthrough of an album in this regard. They’ve been making thrashy, electronic and punk influenced, noisy semi-dance music for years - through lineup reincarnations dating to 2002. Sure, they might’ve stepped up that electro part quite a bit this time round, as is in vogue these days, but they’ve been hacking at an intentional sound for quite some time now - and they are only doing us a favor by continuing to make the albums they do.
Theirs are albums that conform not to any boundaries except the ones they see fit to shove a bit further out. In the process, they take us from nickel-biting, metal and stone-flecked, thrummy basement rock and roll to untouchable, luminous new age ballads like “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack” from 2006’s Drums Not Dead, and their current, blazing, nail-bite-y single “Mess On a Mission.” It’s evident in the way they play. It’s evident in the way they title their albums like palindromes, and hold tight to the concept album sentiment - to the extent of doing photographic pieces reflecting the same motif (rainbow yarn: mess on a mission), everyone else be damned. Let’s all dare to question if there were any Johnny Big Name producers influencing its production and adding an extra layer of pitiful aesthete that we so attach to their presence (I haven’t checked acknowledgements, but let’s sure hope not). What I’m trying to say is, Liars don’t lie about who they are and what they’re here trying to do. And for that, and for anyone who’s bored of the way music’s settled into some kind of comfortable reclining chair this year, in observance of last year’s mega-year, they’re worth a listen.
p.s. Liars’ album Mess is out now and can still be streamed for a couple hours longer on NPR.