Liars: Mess (Mute Records)

Experimental trio more than meet expectations on album number seven

Released Mar 24th, 2014 via Mute / By Erick Mertz
Liars: Mess (Mute Records) Quotations from the Liars camp, in the wake of the release of their seventh record Mess are fraught with hyperbole. Mute Records, their label since 2003, likes to call this release, “the Liars with their balls out.” Although the employ of hyperbole is nothing to be surprised about (every album is seismic these days, no?) it comes as some shock to say that almost every word is as accurate.

The Brooklyn trip, the Liars have run the gamut of styles and recording techniques since their 2001 debut, an acerbic hard rock record wryly titled, They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top. True to their roots, this was recorded in two days and party crashed the dance punk scene. Lead singer Angus Andrew, although certainly complicit in the bawdy, anticipatory praise of Mess describes the record in more erudite terms. Contrasting this record to their previous WIXIW I (pronounced “wish you”) he says, “instead of being doubtful, work on the new album has been immediate, fun, instinctual and confident.”

The album’s first single, “Mess On A Mission” has been a regular feature in recent Liars shows, an absolute roof rattler, filled with vocals of the softcore philosophical variety (facts are facts/and fictions fiction) and hardcore keys. The album’s sequencing is curious, the two longest, most introspective tracks coming at the end. Tempting darkness throughout, the band achieves a truly devious construction on “Perpetual Village” the album’s penultimate, nine-minute song that drapes warbling, ritualistic vocals uneasily over a drowsy beat. As a final statement, “Left Speaker Blown” draws a patient seven-minute conclusion to the record that drones and pulses to a calm, yet decisive end.

Even after repeated listens, I am not inclined to reach for analogs to describe what happens throughout Mess. My sense is that everything on the record is purposed, nothing accidental, even those moments the band reports arrive in the mix as happy accidents. This is undoubtedly a mature record (even when compared to WIXIW) a coming of age told through apt party tracks like “Dress Walker” that tend to ride the rare fence between riot and austere statement.

My first spin of Mess came mid-day, in my basement, no one without shouting distance. This is the kind of record that makes one self-conscious of being alone, but not because it possesses a particular depth or frightening gadgets. Liars have crafted something that is undoubtedly alive, to its core spontaneous. To play this in the confines of your subterranean hovel is, well, the waste of a decent party. In a media landscape given to blowing hard, Mess is one of those records that can claim to meet its own expectations.