PROUD EVOLUTION: Liars at the Temple of Dendur, Saturday May 18th

on May 21, 2013

If the Ramones had broken up in 1976 right after their debut came out, the world would never have been blessed with Rocket to Russia, but it would still know what the Ramones sounded like. All the same adjectives would be used to describe them in either case. Liars are not such a band. “Mr. Your on Fire Mr.” did not clearly set the stage for everything to come after it. Liars are the Liars we know because of a decade's worth of evolution and hindsight, and what they are now will be different after another decade passes. The self-appointed folks piecing together the truth about Liars on the innacuracy minefield that is Wikipedia can’t even decide what kind of band they are from album to album. In the page on their first record they are “dance-punk band Liars.” For the follow-up, they are “noise rock band Liars.” For their third, “experimental rock band Liars.” After that they are simply “the band Liars,” before being pegged more specifically as an “experimental rock trio” for their most recent two albums, including WIXIW, which probably should have been made by “experimental electronic trio Liars.”

Funny as it may be, that progression of descriptions actually illustrates well the notion that a band has to earn, or grow in to, the distinction of being “experimental.” Aside from the long song titles (which read a bit more like Piebald than Amon Duul) and the awesome half-hour closer “This Dust Makes That Mud,” there wasn’t much that was truly out-there about They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top. You can almost hear Monument as Liars bluffing their way into the right early-00’s NYC clubs with the first eight tracks, and then ripping off the masks with the last one: “Gotcha! We were art the whole time!”

After that, they seemed to make all the right 'experimental band' moves. They got on Mute Records. Then they released an album (They Were Wrong, So We Drowned) that was widely disliked upon its release, but which will ultimately be recognized as ahead of its time in one way or another, likely receiving positive reevaluations when its tenth anniversary rolls around next year. Then they moved to freaking Berlin. Then, in said art capital, they chose not to make an even-more-difficult record than Drowned, but instead made a widely-enjoyed, vaguely-conceptual album that has possibly the best known Liars song on it (“The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack,” or ‘the one from that movie’) and cover art that looks like a hamburger made out of words, at least if you squint. 

From there, naturally, it was the self-titled, stripped-down record. At this point, it’s difficult to say if history will ultimately view Sisterworld or WIXIW as the “transitional” album. It probably depends on whether Liars stick with the path they’ve gone down on WIXIW, which points to one surprise in the Liars story: they took over a decade to make their “electronic album" -- if this is even necessarily that record; it depends on how much more (or less) “electronic” their next record is.

 We won’t fully know where WIXIW stands for some time to come, but, in the Temple of Dendur last Saturday night, it made a lot of sense. Liars have by now more than earned the art-stripes required to play a 7:00pm gig adjacent to an old Egyptian temple at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was hard to tell if the blazers and short-ish haircuts were intentional for the show or not, but looking cleaned up works in a room with ancient relics and a fifty-foot-tall glass wall. 

WIXIW is Liars' most accessible record since take-your-pick, and almost definitely the most danceable since their debut. The band have noted in interviews that they like how the palindromic nature of the title suggests a returning to the place one started. Go figure. The perfectly understated tension of "No. 1 Against the Rush" makes you wish they'd write another dozen songs just like it, even though you know that's not how they work. A friend at the show mentioned that the last time he saw Liars they were incredibly loud. At this show they swapped abrasiveness for refinement, volume for rhythm, battery for beats. This newest suit fits them nicely, whether they wear it for long or not.

Apropos of nothing, we saw this sign on Park Ave after the show. This reads like a Liars EP track list, though.