splendid > reviews > 9/9/2002
The Liars
The Liars
They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "We Live NE of Compton"

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The Liars are the latest in a long line of NYC-based groups to be thrust into the international spotlight as a result of that city's "new musical renaissance". The group has quickly ascended through the crowded ranks of unforgiving club-dwelling noise-mongers, and while they don't quite have the cross-gender appeal of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the pouty disagreeability of the Strokes or the urbane refinement of the Walkmen, they heedlessly summon the spirits of post-punk monoliths like PiL, A Certain Ratio and the Pop Group without forsaking their gritty New Yawk-ian roots.

Originally released on Gern Blandsten in late 2001, They Threw us all in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top was quickly scooped up by Blast First records after label owner Paul Smith witnessed the band's manic live show and knew he was seeing something utterly original and unfalteringly fantastic. Now, with a boatload of foreign press and a (reportedly) lucrative deal in hand, the Liars are ready to assail the US public consciousness with their heady brand of herky-jerk punk-funk weirdness. Whether we can handle such an angular onslaught is still anybody's guess.

A group with vigor and exuberance to spare, the Liars storm out of the gate with an itchy tilt-a-whirl of whiplash funk called "Grown Men Don't Fall Into the River, Just Like That", then steamroll their way through "Mr Your on Fire Mr", a rapid-fire barrage of off-kilter rhythms and guitars that stutter and spit like Jerry Lewis on a week-long amphetamine binge. The insanely cathartic "Loose Nuts on the Veladrome" provides a perfect backdrop for lead Liar Angus Andrew's leper-in-a-noose vocals, while the one-two punch of "The Garden was Crowded and Outside" and "Tumbling Walls Buried me in the Debris with ESG" strike like glass tornados, wobbly rhythms spinning atop fatigued electronic blurts and guitars so jagged they cut like Ginsu through a tin can. Things pretty much continue down the same debris-strewn trail until monumental closer "This Dust Makes That Mud" rears its 30-plus-minute head. It begins life as a deeply disturbed jet-fueled funk onslaught, then slowly dissipates into a loping, hypnotic groove that winds itself down to nothing as the album draws to a close -- a remarkably peaceable way to end an album so wholly disorienting.

The major problem facing They Threw us all in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top is the excessive amount of propaganda that has preceded it. We're all sick of hype, as each increasingly bitter backlash shows -- but while such angry dismissal may be purely instinctual, it's wholly unfair to judge the Liars on the basis of such hyperbole. Fortunately, the group seems more than willing to let their music do the lion's share of the talking, which could very well leave them as the last men standing long after the current post-punk revival has done an Ian Curtis on itself.



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