“A Pointlessly Thorough Analysis of the Band Name ‘Liars’ with, Hopefully, Artistic, Sociological and Humanistic Implications (or Just Aimless Cognitive Doodlings)”

Liars to me, when I first experienced them, were somewhat of a weird little group of citizens. Sure, part of the reason was the music — circa Drum’s Not Dead all but unapproachable, obtuse tribal rock with lyrical themes of seemingly pointless burglary (“Made my way up o’er your stairs / Crystals flyin’ everywhere”). For a while it was one of those albums like Xiu Xiu that was critically acclaimed but that even with the help of the pope I couldn’t enliven any spiritual attachment to.
And then there was their name — which ironically struck me as weird for the opposite reason, its marked spareness and simplicity. Another thing implied by it, I thought, was that to them, the band featuring Los Angeleans by way of Germany who are originally Australian (Angus Andrew being the singer), people who “lie” are the real evil in the world. Seeing as I discovered the band about three short years after George W. Bush starting bombing the he** out of innocent Iraqis, I didn’t necessarily see this as the case.
The plot is thickened here by an examination of the first song on their first album (a tactic I like to do with many bands, although if you did that with Pearl Jam you’d probably hate them as bad as Kurt Cobain and Mike Judge did). But anyway with Liars you got in the first song on They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top “Grown Men Don’t Fall in the River Just Like That” [1]: “We’ve got our finger on the pulse of America / Not too political / Nothing too clever”. Now this stanza undoubtedly comprises the lyrical centrality of the song, but it still doesn’t really amount to a discussion of LYING. It implies the pervasive pestilence, if one is to believe in such a thing (like if you have a brain, or something), to rest in a sort of IGNORANCE of politics and an obstinate insistence upon focusing on things which are trivial and dumb. These aforementioned “politics” could encompass generally relayed falsehoods and an ergo moral degradation, but this concept is at very most softly implied, leaving room for a lot of alternatives which would render “lying” not really the real evil at all. It’s quite a tangled web, but then, why the he** wouldn’t it be, I guess.
Now, right now you might be thinking, why are you writing a whole post about this band, I’ve never heard of them and LA via Germany via Australia sounds like a bad beer commercial (or a good commercial for a bad beer, to be exacter). Well, I dunno what kind of music you like, but this band’s catalogue, while continuing to evolve, strokes an overall nearly unparalleled survey of American rock, with what I’d call an entire lack of m.o. — meaning that everything is conceptual and original (and what’s more, inspired). They have the balls to chortle out an uncompromising mantra in “Scarecrows on a Killer Slant” like “Stand ‘em in a street with a gun / And then kill ‘em all”, but the delicacy to rein things in for the (equally apocalyptic) reflective sundown stare of “Goodnight Everything.” As a band they do not have any glaring shortcomings.
Well, the dust has kind of settled on them, I think, at least for now. After bursting onto the scene in ’01 with They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, a statement of extreme concision in what was generally dubbed dance-punk (if you take away the final track which spans 30 minutes, the rest of the album’s eight tracks make up only 20), they’ve made about every type of indie rock you could imagine, leading into a more electro style for their last two albums, the scattered, vague WIXIW and more importantly 2014’s deliberate and potent electro pop abrasion Mess. Now, though, their streak of putting out a new album every two years has finally ended, but not without poignancy — for Mess boasts the track six centerpiece “Mess on a Mission” which seems to… do something, I dunno, but if definitely seems pertinent in any discussion of their band name with the repeated chorus “Facts are facts and fiction’s fiction”. So if you were to interpret that as the band’s potential swan song, you probably wouldn’t be too in the dark. It’s like their “mission” the whole time as a band was to come to that simple conclusion: that “Facts are facts and fiction’s fiction,” but that apparent thematic torpor is laced ironically with worlds and worlds of musical development and accomplishment, like an endorsement of the aural arts over the linguistic. And yes, “Mess on a Mission” happens to be a good song on a good album, for anyone wondering.
To be honest, I have no idea what the band is up to these days. Some things I like to just be left to the imagination, I guess. It’s interesting, though, taking into account how the world has changed, hence appropriating any changes Liars themselves might have gone through, since their onset, because it’s arguable that music itself has changed more than anything, out of the rest of the world. In ’01 file sharing was still a novelty, and so free, and “indie” had yet to really explode in any grounded and focused sort of way which it eventually did thanks in large part to Brooklyn’s Battles, Dirty Projectors, Oxford Collapse and St. Vincent. So for a while the whole game was pretty much just a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off: what does all this music mean? Who cares, it’s free! The Strokes and Interpol came out, as well as the Flaming Lips, and even The Shins, but for all these bands’ respective cap-feathers, none is necessarily the most original thing you’ve ever heard in your life. Liars unquestionably did something completely new with Drum’s Not Dead, if not necessarily with They Threw Us All in a Trench, and like I said before I consider all those Brooklyn bands seminal, in the case of Oxford Collapse not so much for the music but just because their lyrics are so funny and weird. They’re lyrics which never would have survived mainstream rock radio format the way The Strokes’ apparently did. Whereas nothing, nothing about Liars would have survived, epitomized by their initial parodic synopsis of America: “Not too political / Nothing too clever”.
Now, discussing musical finances in light of all this is somewhat hazardous, because Liars certainly don’t strike me as the type of blokes to soon threaten Don Henley’s tax bracket, especially since they live in freakin’ LA (where I heard the rent in cheaper than San Fran but the public transportation is really crappy). Here we see though, too, how it’s only natural that they’d CONTINUE to evade mainstream American culture (and who knows if there even is still a mainstream American culture these days, I’m certainly not concerned in such a thing save a few mental beacons on how to always successfully avoid exposure to it). So whatever this concept of “lies” has to do with them, their relation to it will be naturally mutual in that they have completely remained an artistic free agent all these years, and what’s more, one with the naturally “punk” component of financial impoverishment. Aw, lucky them!
Our next discussion must naturally lead into one of whether Liars are truly “punk” or not, and whether such a thing still exists at all, and whether it matters. Some music critics say that in the late ‘70s Gang of Four already recognized the “dead ends” of punk rock, coming up then with all those crazy chords. Incidentally, Gang of Four is a very popular musical act in LA. Well, I’m going to argue that Liars, in general, at least since Drum’s Not Dead, are more “musical” than they are punk, whereas now, sadly, No Age seems to have fallen into a self-fulfilling prophecy artistic dead-end of resting on creative grounds more “punk” than “musical,” and they’re even punk in the frat-boy meathead way of say The Dead Boys or something. Liars proved their muscle all over with the self-titled album, which I think pitchfork accused of ripping off the Jesus and Mary Chain but I think was probably more Stooges’-ish, with cleaner production but every bit the volume of Mudhoney, which was fine I guess. Sisterworld was a harsh douse of napalm in the face of… well, just LA, I guess — the culture, the greed, the rush. “Goodnight Everything” charms the listener with the prechorus of “Sooooon your little worrrrrld will fall apaaaart”, calling to mind somewhat the sadistic satisfaction of the intro to the Pixies’ “Mr. Grieves” where he’s like “Hope everything is alright” and then starts laughing maniacally.
But my point is, like, their lyrics always seem to be coming from some place organic. They never seem contrived by some outside or preconceived plot or cultural motif. Pastiche in music can be good — take Third Eye Blind’s “Darkness” or something ripping off the “Walk of Life” key riff at the end or yes of course “Never Let You Go” swooping and swiping with laughable blatancy on the main guitar run of The Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.” Both of these things are instances of borrowing and neither is a failure, but as far as attempting pastiche in the realm of lyrics, eh, I’m not too sure about that. That’s like something Nick Cave would do or something.
But getting back to the humanistic implications of the band’s name, I’ve noticed that deceit is a common accusation against Donald Trump, as is racism. Whereas as far as I’ve observed, he hasn’t really said anything explicitly racist (this one ranting chick on facebook even exploded on me by providing his apartment renting habits in like the early ‘00s as evidence of his apparent racism). What we have here, then, is the obvious paradigmatic existence of the racism claim as an accepted, chic thing, somewhat like a tautological victory for black people on a DISCURSIVE level, even if they have not won other victories. Or it’s like, the worst thing you can do is be racist, it’s even worse than all-out deceptive tyranny against the entirety of the American people, the type of thing Trump exhibited explicitly by firing counterintelligence mainstay James Comey and then offering questionable reasons for said firing.
But look what we have in Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker article “The Fidget Spinner is the Perfect Toy for the Trump Presidency.” Now, there’s a lot I could say about this article, like she sounds more like she just missed an afternoon massage than like a failing casino tycoon with no political power just took over the world, but you’d think our friends Liars were the nobel scribes behind this think-piece, because at the end of the article her exact accusation is “Each day, it becomes more apparent that Trump is toying with our democracy, shamelessly betting that the public will be too distracted and too stupefied to register that what he is spinning are lies.” And again, it’s like, wow, don’t sound too angry there. You can cut the emotion with a freakin’ knife. But what’s noteworthy to this blog post is that her primary accusation, the one with which she ends the article, is that Trump is a “liar,” not that Trump is engaged in some unprecedentedly corrupt one-hand-washes-the-other-hand brand of politics yielding results startlingly akin to a dictatorship. Dictatorships don’t need “lies” to properly function — they can just give orders without reason and exercise autocratic rule in such a way. This is closer to what Trump is doing, yet it seems “racism” and lack of honesty are the two most frequent complaints leveled against him. One could theorize with considerable aptitude that the knee-jerk penchant for initiating falsehood accusations has a decent amount to do with a fear of weakness — we don’t want to accuse someone of being bullyish and having too much power, because that will mean that we ourselves are the passive victims, the innocent bystanders to antithetical to the average like Katy Perry or Taylor Swift song, or Saliva, or any mainstream musical act. So there we have it right there — a culture which encourages this me-against-the-world sort of boorishness, nowhere even potentiating let alone encouraging cooperation (the ideal foundation of democracy), so should we be so surprised that we got this kind of president? He’s got the eye of the tiger, he’s just gonna shake it off, you know. You meet a tiger in the jungle, are you gonna expect him to exercise democratic diplomacy?
What this discussion also boils down to, then, is our reticence before accusing someone of something basic and primal. We would rather, ourselves, feel basic, and “pure,” a word given allotment typically in Bernie Sanders discussion. We all love animals. But then, are animals democratic? He** the fu** no they’re not. I saw this one jacka** on facebook trying to say that “bees are beautiful.” Not only was the thing dirt-ugly, but any studier of apiaries knows that as a ritual de lo habitual, to borrow words from Jane’s Addiction, the queen bee every year murders all of the other females in order to mate with all the males. ALL of the males. That makes Ivanka look like Punky Brewster.
We want to accuse people of lying because this will in our own minds make us seem purer and more primal (and so arguably less human), but the whole thing makes you wonder if democracy isn’t just part and parcel with lying, in that each one marks a movement AWAY from the primal and animalistic, each one is a quintessentially human mechanism based on either fear, or reductive logic, or both. Now, I happen to like democracy, and free-market capitalism, the latter to undoubtedly have been authentically exercised every time I go to the grocery store, the former on more tenuous grounds, if at all, given all these election shennanigans. And I’m not going to get into details of Russia’s involvement in the election, although I very much enjoyed Bill Maher’s recent standup bit “Welcome to Americagua.” America is a seven-course smorgasbord. There’s no other way to put it. Both pleasures and problems come in all shapes and sizes. It’s possible that for the RELATIVELY un-American Liars, who hail originally from Australia, the pinnacle of their discontent or whatever does indeed come from being lied to, and this surely boils down to respect, but remember that they’ve got a partial language barrier to deal with, or at least a heavy dialectical barrier, so sifting through the discursive platitudes for them is obviously a way trickier task. It seems that falsehoods are what spawned them into such voluminous rocking, and we’re all thankful that it did, but it’s also possible that said falsehoods were only a subordinate precursor to a later increased malady, like say the “thievery” cited in Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief album. And yes, I do believe that title refers to George W. Bush because there was no British prime ministerial change around ’03. I guess they care about America — well Liars do to. Me, I was just born here, and I oftentimes wish I lived somewhere else. Liars are indie, but even with the case of them, they make big-picture claims with overwhelming intensity, and/or sarcasm, or irony. There’s almost nothing casual about their existence or music, whatsoever, like say, Harry Nilsson, or something. Something casual like that. Nothing is casual anymore — every artistic diatribe is an attempted arson on the whole da** structure. Liars see the structure as lies, Radiohead sees the structure as thievery, Zach de la Rocha sees the structure as racism, Bernie Sanders fans see the structure as campaign fund cahoots… which is the biggest evil? For all our humanness, we still cannot shed the nagging fact that animals kill too, and that’s what will continue to really eat us, although sometimes certain examinations of people’s attempted evasion of this paradigmatic malady can be not only illuminating but entertaining, especially if they’re some crazy a** Aussies by way of Germany living “NE of Compton.” [2]
[1] Luckily for me I get paid on commission for blogging for each zesty new word I write.
[2] Per the diction of track seven on their debut album.

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