In 2001, Liars rode the Brooklyn post-punk-revival wave with a ferocious debut that referenced PiL, ESG, and all the other cool acronyms. Then they tossed out their ace rhythm section; for a post-punk band, this generally spells death-disco without the disco. Their new album, the supposedly witchcraft-themed They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, winner of the prestigious 1 Star in Rolling Stone and F in Spin awards, sounds like it was recorded underwater with corroded World War II-era radar equipment.
But though the album doesn’t punk-funk the way the first one did, it’s not like it refuses to move. Propulsive beats still manage to claw themselves to the surface from underneath gooey layers of murk. Instead of using rhythm as an engine to smoothly propel songs ahead, the grooves are sloppy collages, pasted together kindergarten-style from skeletal drum lines, manic howls, and distorted electronics. It’s less sharp and visceral, more muffled and oblique. Where They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top grabbed you by the throat and screamed, “Wake up, wake up! We got our finger on the pulse of America,” this record turns inward, possessed (and a little obsessed) with itself: “I, I am the boy,” Angus Andrew chants.
Though some sections are plodding and one-dimensional, others lock into place. “There’s Always Room on the Broom” cobbles a dubious but filling meal together from scrapings at the bottom of the sonic cauldron, and “They Don’t Want Your Corn They Want Your Kids” (awful name, that) scratches its itch with beats recalling the Pop Group at their most abrasive.
They Were Wrong, So We Drowned takes its inner ugliness—spite, madness, confusion, self-absorption—and spills it outward. Unable to stem the messy tide on its own, the album dishes out equal parts signal and noise, leaving it to the listener to sort out the goods.