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The Right to Remain Silent...
cottonmouth, texas

Jeff Liles' reputation has always surpassed his commercial success. Such, perhaps, are the rewards bestowed upon artists who turn ambition into art. They think they're forever moving forward without realizing there's someone behind them twisting a knife in their back while offering a firm how-ya-doing? handshake. Three times Liles has appeared on major-label releases, and three times he's come up holding the short end of the shtick. Which is no surprise, really: When you're Jeff Liles, a man who likes to tell stories about dropping acid in high school or waxing beat-poetic about high school heroin deaths in Plano or shooting your girlfriend in the head because she's not enough like you're mom, it's doubtful anyone from Virgin Records is gonna get just where you're coming from.

The Right to Remain Silent..., like its two predecessors (1995's White Trash Receptacle on One Ton and last year's anti-social butterfly on Virgin), isn't an easy listen. Trying to take it all in at once, ingesting so much fear and loathing, it's like trying to read a Martin Amis novel in a single sitting--you can't do it without constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering if those are footsteps you're hearing. Liles' third disc is a rather bleak, singular experience, the sound made when a guy runs out of drugs and decides to talk into a microphone before his dealer shows up and gets arrested in the driveway. Liles, using music borrowed and brand-new (from the likes of such local heroes as Johnny Reno, Shabazz 3, Kenny Withrow, Buck Jones, Q and the Black Martin, and co-producer Reed Easterwood), creates a claustrophobic world where everything's this close to falling apart, where cops bust kids for no reason ("Shit's Deep in Shit Creek"), where friends let friends drive drunk ("DW Eyewitness"), drugs provide a moment's high and a forever low ("Planopiate, Texas"), and the only thing worse than killing your girlfriend is trying to decide who gets the records ("Suicidal Predator" and "The Night Before the Day She Left").

His is a low-key hysteria, fueled by weed and TV; imagine what happens to a guy with a full pipe in one hand and a remote control in another. It might sound something like this: "I smoked a roach of some bunkweed and then turned on the TV. I didn't even have the sound up. I was just sitting there, staring at nothing in particular. About five minutes later, my phone rang...I picked it up and said hello. Nobody said anything back. Hello?" This is Liles as the "Paranoid Insomniac," his voice barely rising above a groan while Reno blows notes like smoke in the background. Liles can make anxiety feel like a rush. Listen long enough, and his fear becomes tangible, almost addictive.

--Robert Wilonsky


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