Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Better Late Than Never - Drum's Not Dead

When this album was released in 2006 I was not listening to a lot of new music and tend to have a knee jerk reaction towards critical darlings. On a whim I recently purchased Liars' Drum's Not Dead. Here is a review:

Liars have diverted Boredom's krautrock inspired symphonies to the sun from Super AE and Vision Creation Newsun and funnelled them down an altogether darker, danker tunnel to blend further with the bruised instrumental protest postpunk of This Heat and the more whimsical dub goth of the likes of Bauhaus.

What is arguably a rather weak attempt at a concept album in terms of subject matter, if nothing else, does indicate to the listener to consider the collection of songs as a whole. This is further bolstered by the near perfect suite-like sequencing, timing and variety of songs over its 47 minutes. This alone sets the album apart from the current mp3 obsessed market. Liars have also provided the album in a total of 4 separate formats: audio only and 3 different album length video treatments. While serving as part making-of-documentary, live footage and assorted hotel room hijinx, these videos again guide the listener to immerse themselves for the long haul.

The near perfect opening trifecta of drum dominated tunes segue smoothly into one another and are a masterclass in less-is-more arrangement aesthetic. Skeletoned by simple but effective primal and martial drumming, additional elements (vocal shrieks, snake charmer falsetto, droning guitar) are artfully added, blended and removed so as to provide constant variety without losing economy. The glue to Drum's recipe is often the addition of heavily affected drums, either distorted or reverbed so as to render them almost unrecognisable, as a separate instrument within the mix.

By the time the album centrepiece, It Fit When I was a Kid is reached several hills (mountains?) of drum barrage and plateaus of guitar drone nirvana have been traversed. The tom roar and gormless vocal chant led song, strangely reminiscent of mid 90's Massive Attack dread paranoia, gives rise to a beautiful coda of organ and keening Robert Wyatt type vocals, whose melodic ideas
are again subtly referenced on the following track. A series of more disjointed, but captivating song sketches, studio experiments and tone poems usher in the final third.

Thereafter, the effected drums make an energetic and welcome return this time sounding like they are powered by pistons instead of humans. Drum and the Uncomfortable Can especially coming off like a distant cousin of Einsturzende Neubaten's 'ZNS'.

Closer, The Other side of Mt Heart Attack carries all the throw-away sentimentality of Bauhaus's 'Crowds' and is suitably cobbled together to not come off too precious but to merely serve as a small celebration for getting through Liars' epic mind fuck.

Liars have made rock 'n roll great and mythical again without resorting to tired swords and sorcery cliches.

1 comment:

  1. I let this album wash over me a bit when it came out, will definitely return to it for a second opinion.