Drum’s Not Dead
I wasn’t expecting this. The Liars new album Drum’s Not Dead is one of the most gripping albums I’ve heard in a while. Seemingly a concept album about Drum, a
boy haunted by unknown forces and untrustworthy friends, the album has the feel of a musical ritual or an ancient myth set to music. Utilizing hypnotic guitar grooves, lots of percussion and frontman Angus Andrews newly found falsetto, the Liars create the
kind of rich ambient soundscape I haven’t really heard since Radiohead’s Kid A.
The reason I wasn’t expecting this from a band like the Liars is that this is same band responsible for "Mr. Mr. You’re On Fire," one of the lamest and most obnoxious dance-punk songs released during the New York music explosion of 2002. Back then Andrews was most famous for being Karen O’s [from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s] boyfriend. But between their first album and Drum’s Not Dead, the Liars released They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, a noisy, experimental album that got pulverized by critics, with Spin giving it one of their lowest ratings ever.
So it’s shocking how good Drum’s Not Dead is. But just as shocking is that it’s good in so many different ways. Songs like "Be Quiet Mt. Heart Attack, "Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack," and "It’s All Blooming Now Mt. Heart Attack" sound like the German band Can, all propulsive percussion and spacey grooves. Instead of writing hooks, the Liars gain their power from repetition, planting a mood in the mind of the listener as opposed to manipulating them with a melody.
And on tracks like "A Visit From Drum," "Drum Gets A Glimpse," and "The Wrong Coat For You Mt. Heart Attack," the band uses ethereal guitar lines and chiming bells to create a sad, bittersweet mood coupled with a creepy sense of foreboding. While I’m not sure exactly what plot is unfolding, Drum is in a lot of danger, from his friends, his enemies and the world around him. But it’s this very mystery that makes the story so compelling, because there is a richness to the music that convinces something quite scary is going down.
The Liars recorded Drum’s Not Dead in an old Berlin radio facility, whose acoustics help create a warm, eerie sound that matches perfectly with the strange and gripping tale of Drum. But just as much credit goes to the band and Andrews for trusting their inner muse enough to soldier on after the onslaught of hate and frustration that followed their last album. It’s clear now that the Liars were too weird and too ambitious to be hemmed in by drum machines and angular rock riffs. Drum’s Not Dead is truly an amazing album
that announces the Liars as true artists.
Now go out and get the album!