Liars

They Were Wrong, So We Drowned (Mute Records)

For every album that refines pop songwriting, there's another that sets it on fire. Or in analogy form, Pet Sounds is to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless as Revolver is to Kraftwerk's Autobahn. The former are championed for their universal appeal, but die-hard fans love the latter because they are the exact opposite: challenging and revolutionary. Of course, weird music isn't necessarily genius, so a classic goes one further by combining novelty with sonic depth. This depth may not be immediately apparent in Liars' latest, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, because the bass-driven funk-rock of their critically acclaimed 2002 debut (They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top) has evolved into what some might dismiss as mindless noise. Repeat listens, however, reveal surprising intelligence in the insanity.

"Broken Witch" is less of an opening track and more of a litmus test. It attacks speakers with a minute's worth of what sounds like an elevator in hell before rollicking drums, maniacal guitar notes and chanting vocals propel the mess into tribal territory. Throughout the album, melody is often beaten to a pulp by dance-appreciative drumwork and pounding guitars that sound like a drug-addled hamster clawing through a Rickenbacker. To the beat, anyway.

This rhythmic force is welded together by the pleading and shouting of Angus Andrew. By holding back, Andrew builds a maddening tension perfect for the album's dark nature, and when he finally lets loose, it's cathartic. The ingredients are layered and dense, but the brutal sum is simple and direct in tracks like the eerie "We Fenced Other Houses" and the murderous "Hold and It Will Happen Anyway." Track after track, expectations are smashed, and Liars' former style vanishes in the wake of the weird, intelligent and catchy They Were Wrong. The Beach Boys and Beatles never looked back after their classics, and it's safe to say Liars won't, either.

 
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