Led by too much hype and too little talent, New York’s rock ‘n’ roll scene—the one that had been dead for a while—recently resurfaced just east of Manhattan, in the borough of Brooklyn. Features in magazines like Rolling Stone, Spin and even The New York Times hail Brooklyn, and specifically the faux-bohemian neighborhood known as Williamsburg, as the home base of a new wave of funky-punk-garage-noise-dance-music that takes its cues from the classics of both NYC and the UK—Television, Wire, Gang of Four, to list a few. And while I won’t name names, let it be known that in spite of all of the positive exposure these Brooklyn bands are receiving, most of them are either already past their prime or had nothing that could be labeled as such to begin with.
At least out of the mass grave of acclaimed Brooklyn bands there is one viable act: Liars. Their debut record They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top was originally released in 2001 on Gern Blandsten, and it bull’s-eyes what a lot of these other acts seem to aim for blindfolded.
Punk. Rock. Dirty. Dance. Music.
It’s everything Brooklyn is supposed to be, packed into nine spit-in-your-face tunes. And since its initial release on Gern Blandsten, Mute Records—the label that’s housed Cabaret Voltaire, Buzzcocks, Can, etc.—has signed the band and is re-issuing their (re)visionary beginning.
They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top is an ode to the dance rock bands of years past. Clanging guitar riffs, basslines that groove, and on-the-up-beat drums outline the old-style punk aesthetic, but with front man Angus Andrew belting out sexy moans, screeches, and muddied lyrics, the pubescent sound of punk rock’s youth is swept under their intricately woven rug of maturity. Add to the mix drum machines producing the now ubiquitous—but still fail-safe—clap sound that the worldwide electro revival has shown us how to love, and this record puts to shame the releases of many of Brooklyn’s false prophets.
Take their song “Mr. your on fire Mr” (all grammatical errors seemingly intentional), for example. A Neo No Wave stop and go anthem, it’s complete with drum machine claps and even cowbells. With its deep groove and the vocal processing that makes Andrew’s voice squeal, zip, and whirl when he isn’t singing, “Mr. your” is the perfect dance track for 2002.
“Loose nuts on the Veladrome”, on the other hand, immediately pounds out of the speakers with a chunky one-note bassline and mashed up, screeching guitar chords that never letting up. Drums thud and crash one second, only to return to rhythmic stability the next, and at times when the whole track seems on the verge of falling to pieces it glues itself together and returns to a throbbing beat before it looses sight of its purpose.
So it looks like New York is back in the game and the boys of Liars are our all-star players. Mixing the grit that was The Stooges with the bounce that was Gang of Four, Liars and their debut release are everything that should be praised about Brooklyn’s music scene. With absurd lyrics—lines like “You can’t teach new tricks to blue jeans”—dark, but danceable music, and a live show that includes all of the fist shaking, foot stomping, and body twirling that makes rock ‘n’ roll infamous, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top has already been reserved a spot in history as a record that could easily define this generation of dance rock.