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Music

Liars Academy: No News Is Good News

Eden Miller

Liars Academy

No News Is Good News

Label: Equal Vision
US Release Date: 2001-11-13
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Punk pop never truly makes much sense. The spirit of punk and the spirit of pop are at odds with each other. Punk embraces rebellion, the rejection of societal standards in favor of its own. Pop, on the other hand, is all about the masses. It is about playing it safe enough to please as many people as possible. This is where Liars Academy begins to run into its problems. While it is an incessantly likeable band, it seems unsure about quite what it wants to be. Too scared of its own darker emotions to truly be punk, and too image-conscious to flat-out pander to a general audience, Liars Academy has no idea what it wants to be doing as a band. In effect, No News Is Good News is largely forgettable.

The upbeat sound of Liars Academy does give its music a sense of fun, at least in the sense it's good to put on for background noise at parties. Even if a conscious effort is made to listen to it, No News is Good News still has that sense to it. It's doubtful that the band tried to make its music sound fairly indistinguishable from any other guitar-bass-drums band out there, but Liars Academy definitely has pleasing generic quality to it. It sounds familiar, and because of this, No News Is Good News is easy to listen to. It sounds harsh, but that's about all that can be said for Liars Academy -- it is not offensive in any way. You'll like Liars Academy because that's the simplest thing to do.

But this likeability does work against Liars Academy. No News Is Good News is so basic that the moment listeners start paying attention to it, they will find it lacking. The music is just good enough for you want it to be better. Lead singer Ryan Shelkett has a perfect nonspecific rock voice -- melodic enough to get through the songs, with that slightly nerdy edge that almost reveals a well-hidden sensitivity. His guitar work is essentially by the numbers, feedback-riddled here and then mellow there. His band mates -- Matt Smith on bass and guitar, and Evan Tanner on drums -- follow this same philosophy. If they can emulate the formula that has worked for so many other bands, it will work for them too. Liars Academy has adequate talent to produce a good facsimile of every other generic band out there, but it isn't doing anything that hasn't been done before.

While the songs might reveal their individual idiosyncrasies over repeated listens, it's a challenge to get to that point, and the ones that stand out are not necessarily the best ones. With songs like "This Is Your Life, Get Used to It" that sound ripped from the soundtrack to some teen movie, Liars Academy just sounds juvenile. The band has no restraint lyrically, finding a line or two that it thinks is clever and then it repeats it again and again. On "Dreams in Technicolor" the lines "But when we dream in color / It's the same as black and white", which weren't that remarkable to begin with, are sung six different times in a three minute song. Other lyrics are standard, with the common meaninglessness that tries to pass for deepness, like "Night falls and I fall" from "Quarter Life Crisis". Mostly, though, the lyrics are ignorable, and No News is Good News is better for it.

While it does have the mark of "obligatory ballad" on it, "Sell Me a Minute" is the most intriguing song on the album just because it stands out from the rest. There's not much that makes it more than just another sweet little song, but in the middle of constantly bouncily noisy songs, it is a refreshing break. The placement of this song is the one thing that shows that Liars Academy has some sense of album structure and arrangement. Unfortunately, it's the only glimpse of the true ability of this band.

Liars Academy is by no means unbearable, but little about its album stands out. If it managed to set itself apart, then maybe No News Is Good News would be stronger. No matter what talent the band may have, it is completely wasted here. As likeable as the band is, there's nothing to recommend it.

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