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Liars: Fins to Make Us More Fish-Like

Ryan Potts


Fins to Make Us More Fish-Like

Label: Blast First
US Release Date: 2002-11-12
UK Release Date: 2002-11-04

Admitting you're a liar is the most honest thing a person can do," spits the looming 6'6" frontman of New York's heirs of glorious noise. But this isn't a lie: the Liars have released one of the most exciting and confrontational albums of the past few years in the shape of They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top. It's a record that chews up dance music, spits it out in some messy form of regurgitated noise and molds it into art-punk mayhem. It also happens to be my favorite album in years.

But after Mute recycled their mind-shredding (in both quality and style) debut full-length, after John Peel has put their material to tape and after opening for the avant-noise vets in Sonic Youth, the Liars still aren't satisfied. Reinterpreting their molten post-punk grooves and cramming their art-noise through a series of experimental filters, Fins to Make Us More Fish-Like finds the Liars caught between a sinching vice of dancefloor experimentation and threshing post-punk ferocity.

This three-song EP, although still taut with neck-snapping rhythmic tension and replete with vicious psycho-babble, is the sound of the Liars sharpening their post-punk edge with an experimental scalpel and an avant-garde blade. The proof arises immediately. Whereas They Threw Us entered with scathing post-punk rowdiness, Fins begins by slamming down weird angles of death disco -- the majority of the sound reportedly sputtering from electronic children's toys resurrected from the '80s which have been reworked and manipulated by bassist Pat Nature.

Other than the half-hour loop that closed their bombshell of a debut, Fins' opening track, "Pillars Were Hollow and Filled with Candy So We Tore Them Down," stands as the Liars' longest song at six-minutes of layered sonic skronk. Rewiring dance-noise on an experimental plane above their more kinetic works, this track is an accelerated, highly evolved moment for any band -- let alone one that's already proven its worth far above its mish-mash of critically appointed post-punk touchstones.

Yet, despite how heavy the Liars slam down the accelerator on their genre puncturing art-noise, Fins is undeniably from the same clumsy, drunk-on-attitude, messy rock band that tore apart Brooklyn with their debut. And wild-eyed Australian borne vocalist Angus Andrew holds the precious, irreplaceable key.

As the Liars' lyrical mouthpiece, Andrew is simultaneously more playful and more demanding than ever on this 12-minute EP. Insensible and jarring, he churns out non-sequiturs -- such as "Turn like a watch / Die like a bear / Smell like a dog / Feel like a girl / Dance like a boy" on "Everyday is a Child with Teeth" -- into a beautiful mess of slurred speech. Reaching for the ridiculous, he often snarls with demented genius and rages with bursts of babbling syllables, but this jutting, awkward clumsiness is what keeps the Liars extraordinary and infinitely precious in this world of pretentious indie rock.

Beginning like a bleeping video game soundtrack from a bygone era, the aforementioned track of "Everyday Is a Child With Teeth" finds Andrew deliberately scribbling outside the lines of sanity with howls and hoots that instigate a post-punk musical meltdown -- and it sounds absolutely fabulous.

But despite the heavy additive of experimentation the Liars have augmented their volatile art-rock with, they keep a firm hold on their initial post-punk pinpoints. And, in this case, quite tangibly.

First appearing as the spiky, adrenaline pumping opener on They Threw Us, "Grown Men Don't Fall in the River Just Like That" finds itself being reworked and retooled for placement as the third and final track on Fins to Make Us More Fish-Like. But, continuing in familiar fashion with the rest of the EP, this isn't simply the same great song being rehashed; it carries on the tradition of Fins by incorporate new, experimental angles into the Liars' riveting post-punk. The new, stripped down rendition of "Grown Men Don't Fall" also marks the saxophone debut of guitarist Aaron Hemphill -- highlighting the relevancy of early no wave tactics by such acts as the Contortions.

Fins to Make Us More Fish-Like may illustrate the Liars redrawing their experimental post-punk game plan, but, philosophically, this succinct EP holds the same precious significance as their glorious full-length. As a band whose clumsiness is beautiful, whose messiness is ingenius and whose carelessness is a blessing, the Liars are a musical virtue. They completely subvert the culture of cool usually found in egotistical indie music to arrive at tunes that dismantle formulas, ignore trends and promote such typically un-hip things as dance and humor. In an independent environment that champions highbrow "intellect" and pompous attitudes, this is more than rejuvenating -- it's absolutely vital.

Turn it up, pledge allegiance and celebrate: the revolution has come.

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