Liars guitarist Aaron Hemphill has a bone to pick. No, not with Spin, which called the band's second record, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, "unlistenable." And not with the folks who have walked out of the band's recent shows--them he has no problem with. It's just that people have been getting the wrong idea about Liars.

"We are not dark, angry people--and it does get tiresome when people assume that we must be dark and angry in order to have made this record. The literalism is astounding. It's like, did they ever think maybe we just wanted to try something new?"

The Liars have indeed tried something new with They Were Wrong: The last time a band made so emphatic a break with its prior sound was Radiohead circa Kid A, though the experimentation on They Were Wrong makes Radiohead's efforts seem tame. The sound is all but indescribable, because there's nothing else that sounds quite like this record--including the Liars' 2001 debut, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top.

That record anticipated all the jittery dance-punk that followed and still follows; They Were Wrong, in contrast, mines a shaft of art-noise bleakness at once visceral, weirdly elegant and all-consuming. The chasm between the two--in tone, in song structure, in style--is so vast, you can't help but sympathize with people who seek to explain it by proposing that the Liars experienced an apocalyptic, collective nervous breakdown. But no, Hemphill insists.

"It's not like we ever sat down and had a conversation, like, OK, now we're going to make our 'experimental' record," Hemphill says. "This record simply grew out of us experimenting, and we were experimenting because we could. "

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Maya Singer