Refusing to be Pinned Down
Not many albums have a parental advisory sticker on them these days, do they? Something about this being on the cover, combined with the gothic font and hi-res image of a man with a shaved head, grimacing in a wedding dress, makes one expect TFCF by Liars to sound like a mid-’00s pop punk album. Call it bias, but when the first song, “The Grand Delusional” plays, the lonely bandito aesthetic that comes whistling through the canyons is surprising, to say the least. And this contrast only gets stranger and better from there.
“Cliché Suite” isn’t exactly new territory for the aforementioned bandito music, as it has a distinctly flamenco vibe to it. It’s when “Staring at Zero” finds its bare bones, but still off-kilter, grimey electronic groove that staring at the grimace on the cover becomes even more unsettling (and interesting) as a result. But alright, alright. Unsettling is one thing. What else is there? “No Help Pamphlet” answers this question with melancholy poetry about finding love with someone as eccentric as you, with an acoustic strumming akin to… Neutral Milk Hotel? It doesn’t seem like it at first, but the whimsy becomes clear once trust is established in Liars’ sincerity through their lyricism. And that synth! Something about the indie timbre of it doesn’t go with the expected underground aesthetic established by “Staring at Zero” at all. But it works so well, not in spite of that established vibe, but in a sensitive and defiantly gentle way instead. Combined with the stuttering drums at the end, it’s clear that Liars are a talented group of musicians.
TFCF does, however, tend toward the plodding side now and again. Where “The Grand Delusional” is a macabre dirge that creates interest to hear what’s next, “Face to Face With My Face” and “Emblems of Another Story” start to fade into the background while the listener begins to drift off into whatever activity is also being performed in addition to the music listening. “No Tree No Branch,” though, picks the energy back up in spades. That jangly player piano takes the indie rock tour from Neutral Milk Hotel to Modest Mouse, and all the power to Liars for that in and of itself.
The mumbling singing and breakbeat drumming keep their style distinctly Liars. And just when one has their sound pinned down, in comes… Rage Against The Machine? That riff sounds just like “Killing in the Name,” and why not?! It catches the ear with the distinctly reverb-less electric pulses. They definitely have a unique taste for synth timbres. Because again the listener returns to that grimace on the cover, and his eccentricities gain yet another layer to them. It becomes clear as the album ends, with two more not formless, but still not garden variety songs bookmark TFCF with a starkly contrasted style to the first two songs, its accepted that this album was made by Liars and for Liars. Many of the songs don’t really extend a hand out to welcome the listener into their story and melodies. It feels like an album of being rambled at by the grimacing man on the cover, but hey, he’s got some interesting ideas, doesn’t he?