Liars are always pushing out the weirdest of the weird. Actually that’s an understatement. The first time I heard ‘They Threw Us All In A Trench, and Stuck Monument On Top’, I fucking hated it. I listened to it a couple days later, and thought it was awesome. What kind of band can have that sort of polarizing effect on a person? There were no drugs involved, I was probably in the same emotional state, and I don’t think I had learnt all that much about Nietzsche in the time between the two listens. And yet, I offered myself two completely different perspectives on the album within two listens a few days apart. That’s not a weird band, like Lou Reed’s solo work or The Flaming Lips’ latest stuff; That’s a band with mystical, probably dark magical properties.
The thing with Liars is they either offer albums that take time getting used to but never surmount to being special, or they create albums that are immediately likeable and zone in on human frailty and bash it with the inane focus of the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey. ‘They Threw Us…’ and ‘Drum’s Not Dead’ fall into the former category, whilst their self-titled, and ‘WIXIW’ fall into the latter category.
So where does that leave their new album ‘Mess’? Well, this has perhaps been the easiest selection for any Liars album, as ‘Mess’ is an intensely enjoyable and sticky effort from Liars. Maybe it’s because I prefer Liars when they’re in a more traditional songwriting mode, or maybe it’s because their new focus on synths and moving away from blistering guitar drone makes it easier to swallow the album, but ‘Mess’ remains Liars most solid and refined album to date.
Don’t worry, there’s the usual sadistic, twisted sounds that we’ve come to expect from Liars. Opener ‘Mask Maker’ ensures that when a demonic voice announces ‘Take my pants off…use my socks, smell my socks…eat my face off”, whilst a dangerous synth beat emerges. That’s kind of the template for the rest of the album. Demented and tortured electronic soundscapes set to disturbing, droning vocals.
Case in point: ‘Pro Anti Anti’ is a storming, fascist beat, whirring mechanics creating a machine of destruction. ‘Mess on a Mission’ is the kind of thing Oppenheimer probably would’ve listened to in order to pump himself up for a day of inventing mass death. The song even has a ominous tick-tocking rhythm! And ‘Darkslide’ is a gooey, dark mix, like the trash-compactor creature from ‘A New Hope’ scoring his own production credit.
Every song on ‘Mess’ is darkly morbid, and equally disturbing. And that’s what makes it such an arresting album. It’s a non-stop bubbling over of carnal desire, hidden pleasures uncovered for all to see and morbid fascinations exposed to all. It revels in the dirt and muck, and then remixes it with the twisted delight of Aphex Twin, but without losing any of the strange intoxication that makes Liars such a unique and breath-taking band. And whilst some of their previous albums have taken multiple listens to understand, ‘Mess’ stands at the forefront, naked and screaming in demented ecstasy.