Liars – Sisterworld
When bands release self-titled albums, it can signify numerous things, most of them negative, such as lack of inspiration or effort. When Australian/American rock trio Liars did so in 2007, it was in an attempt to refocus attention onto their music and away from the thematic concerns of previous albums such as Drums Not Dead and They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. Of course brilliant groups (and that’s certainly what Liars are) can’t really escape from their true nature. Liars became a non-concept concept album, and people either discussed that or didn’t talk about it at all; a shame, as it was a mighty piece of work and it lost the band momentum.
The silver lining is that they’ve regained their drive, and then some, with this stunning piece of work. The thematically guiding hand of their fifth long player suggested itself when singer/guitarist Angus Andrew moved to Los Angeles and took lodgings above a legal marijuana dispensary. Within weeks, a doorman at the weed depository had been gunned down outside his front door and two thieves had broken into his flat with lump hammers. Great art often comes from the desire/inability to escape the urban environment and the unhappiness that occurs when a substitute exit is sourced (Trainspotting / Brazil / 1984). Sisterworld became the concept of such a haven. Whether we want it to be or not, Los Angeles is a pit canary and when you look at its diseased downtown streets it becomes clear that in the 21st Century, the autonomous wheels of late capitalism worldwide will kill more people than the combined political atrocities of the 20th Century.
This awful idea is given voice on the album’s bracing centrepiece ‘Scarecrows On A Killer Slant’. Angus chides himself for ignoring a homeless guy (“Why d’you pass the bum on the street?”) before suffering a hysterical glimpse of a new urban Auschwitz as he screams, “We should take the creeps out at night / Drag them incomplete by their ears / We should nail their thoughts to the wall / Stand them in the street with a gun / And then kill them all.”
Horrific. Prophetic. A unique and unsettling vision. John Doran