Whoever, or whatever, is the owner of the unearthly, fiendish voice that begins “Mask Maker“, the opening track from experimental noise-dance-punk-rock band Liars’ seventh studio album Mess, it has an unhealthy appetite. You should not eat socks or faces, they’re probably bad for you.
As someone fairly unfamiliar with the work of Liars, putting on Mess was like walking through a wormhole into a demented world of oppressive rhythms, panicked shouts, jittery computerised bleeps and the atonal voice of Angus Andrew. From the first huge drop of clattering drums and jet engine drones, it is clear that while Liars may be trying to impose the spirit of the less subtle end of the IDM spectrum onto their music, they may not necessarily be trying to infuse it with any kind of danceability.
Mess is not an easy listen. You may not be lured into the feeling of wanting to get a groove on. The essential components of dance music are there, but they are the weirdly creepy machine-like aspects of it. Daft Punk may have re-introduced disco to a younger generation last year, but the only disco Mess would ever be played in is the blue lit, paranoid, disturbed robot ruled discotheque of your very worst nightmares of a dystopian world.
In the end, this results in an album that is full of atmosphere, but one that is easier to admire than to like. “Mask Maker” evokes the image of something plummeting down on top of you and the need for an urgent escape. “Vox Tuned D.E.D.” continues this trend with a noise that sounds like rumbling devilish horns calling you to an uncertain fate. All of this is hugely disorientating and discomforting in that satisfying way you get when watching an excellent horror film – it’s frightening but I’m really enjoying it.
“Vox Tuned D.E.D”:
Finally, by “Can’t Hear Well“, there is some time to catch your breath, but this then peters out into “Mess On A Mission“, the albums biggest tune. It retains the ominous disruption of the previous tracks, but contains a shout-a-long chorus and the first beat that you can really dance (or jump about) to. It’s a proper centrepiece to the album, because then, all the alien voices and feelings of foreboding crawl back into earshot and things get weird again.
“Can’t Hear Well”:
My conclusion from listening to Mess is that while I enjoyed the ride, it is hard to pick a proper purpose for this music. It’s not ambient enough to chill out to; it’s not catchy enough to dance to; it’s not trippy enough to enjoy while intoxicated. It’s a jarringly sci-fi experience that doesn’t have the emotional depth of dance music that might be considered a bit warmer and a bit more soulful.
“Mess On A Mission”:
Perhaps, the best comparison to any recent album I’ve heard would be Fuck Button’s Slow Focus. While Mess is perhaps lacking in, well, the focus of that album, this is still rough, full blooded music which beats you up and leaves you battered and bruised, like a really good workout. If you’re ever dancing to this, your movements won’t be smooth and fluid, but jolting and kinetic, like an electric shock victim. Credit must go to unrelenting musicians like Liars who couldn’t care less about your expectation of a record they would describe as being inspired by dance music. They take your expectations and twist them into a shape you can no longer recognise and feed you back something from another world. Thank God for that.
Purchase: Liars – Mess (iTunes)
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