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Liars - They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top

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Artist: Liars

Album: They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top

Label: Mute

Review date: Aug. 26, 2002

The New Pulse of America

Right now it’s a good time to be a New Yorker, musically speaking. When I moved to the big scary city just over four years ago, I came ostensibly to get a degree in, well, something or other. In reality, however, I moved here because I was eighteen, bored out of my fucking mind, and thought New York would be as good a place as any to help me dissolve eighteen pent-up years of suburban ennui.

Now that I’m here to stay until I’m broke and miserable, I’m glad all of these insane bands are coming to roost in the five boroughs. It’s strange, too, but a lot of these bands are constituting some y2k2 wave of post-punk anthemists. You know the sounds: rooted in PiL, Gang of Four, the Pop Group, ESG, A Certain Ratio, etc., newer bands like the Rapture, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, !!!/Out Hud, Interpol, Black Dice, the Rogers Sisters, and now Liars are all constituting a new scene of rockers, firmly putting the “ass” back into “bass” (well, for those who have bass players at any rate), upping the groove quotient and downplaying the pretentious indie sensibility. It’s a refreshing change, I say. See, the first time I saw Liars was very recently, actually, at the Knitting Factory with !!!. To say that they blew the doors off the place would be an understatement on par with something like, oh I don’t know, the Vietnam War wasn’t a good thing. With a rock hard rhythm section to counter against the Andy Gill-isms that the guitarist was coating with heaping doses of chaotic noises, the hulking monstrosity that is singer Angus leapt back and forth on the stage, oblivious to all the beer being chucked at him. It was a sight to be seen, one that almost single-handedly revitalized my belief in the transformative powers of rock music.

A little less than one year after its initial release on New Jersey label Gern Blandsten, Liars’ debut full-length They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top gets the reissue treatment courtesy of new label Blast First (a subsidiary of the Mute conglomerate). It’s the exact same record that came out in 2001, only this time with a bit of a remastering job tossed in for good measure. In all, it’s an intense fifty minute ride through the minds of one of the best new bands to emerge in recent memory. The album starts with “Grown Men Don’t Fall Into the River, Just Like That”, which sets the tone and the sound for what’s to follow on the record. Equal parts splattering shards of noise guitar, taut, rhythmic bass lines, and disco drumbeats, the music sets a perfect backdrop for Aussie Angus to spit venomous lines from the speakers. When he screams “We’ve got our finger on the pulse of America”, you can’t help but nod your head both in time with the music and in agreement. “Mr Your on Fire Mr” is another tightly wound rocker, heavily reliant this time on the rhythms laid down by while guitarist weaves noises coaxed from his guitar in and out of the mix, sometimes lapsing into real notes, other times just letting it all squall.

“Loose Nuts on the Veladrome” doesn’t build tension, but rather begins with it. Uneasy bass lines, guitar phrases, and drum fills scatter across the backdrop while Angus alternates his vocals between almost childlike taunts and ominous screams. “The Garden Was Crowded and Outside” changes the attack up a bit, beginning with samples of typewriters and telephones dialing. The drums are dropped into the background of the mix, before everything kicks in to crush the eardrums. This one relies more on its uneasy rhythms and start-stop pulsating, sounding almost reminiscent of the Jesus Lizard. Liars tip their hand a bit on “Tumbling Walls Buried Me in the Debris with ESG”, starting with both a sample and a cover of ESG’s insanely great track “UFO”. The band work themselves into an inspired two-minute groove here, both saluting and updating one of the best bands to come out of the early ‘80s hybrids of dance music and punk. Halfway through, the band switches it all up, working a heavy bass throb and drum groove into the ground. “Nothing Is Ever Lost Or Can Be Lost My Science Fried” works more rolling rhythms and bass lines as Angus weaves queasy vocals into the mix here, while “We Live NE of Compton” ups the chaotic rock factor straight through the roof, resulting in a furious and punishing punk scorcher that pushes straight ahead into oblivion. The album closes with “This Dirt Makes Mud”. It starts off as a dark and brooding four minute number that work all the angles the band explores so gloriously elsewhere on the record. The last few bars of the song work themselves into a sort of locked groove at the end, repeating and repeating for the remainder of the album’s twenty-six minutes. It’s a nice idea, really, but odds are likely that you’ll want to give up after a few minutes and replay the whole maddening rush that is Liars’ first record over and over again.

I slept on this record big time last year, reviewing it merely as “dance-y [sic] punk” for my radio station and tossing it into rotation. I barely looked twice at it during my weekly shows for some odd reason. But now it’s getting the large-scale push it so richly deserves, so don’t make the same mistake I did. Sometimes you do get second chances in life to catch things. This is one of those times. Don’t blow it, chief, and get left behind when Liars become one of the greatest rock bands known to man. The one thing these four need to work on now is finding away to make the intensity and insanity of their live shows translate to record. Don’t get me wrong, The Threw Us All… is one of the most intense rock records you will hear this year. But those live shows are a force to be reckoned with, one you have to feel to understand.

By Michael Crumsho

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