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“Liars Would Be Better Than Radiohead to See Live This Summer”

Well, the good news is, we got a new papal bull from Rob Sheffield claiming Radiohead to be the “World’s Greatest Rock Band” (and yes he did capitalize those words, for reasons of which I have no idea). The bad part is, that guy’s a total coke-sniffing moron, saying things like the “tour seems designed to prove a few self-evident truths” (if a truth is self-evident why would it need proving) and that the current tour is “career-capping” despite his later emphasis of Yorke’s remark of “See you again” to be “a resonant message in itself.”
The other snag with this whole Radiohead idolatry is that, well, along with the set lists having no identity amidst jumping around to various styles of music which aren’t really “rock” at all (“Daydreaming”; “Morning Bell” and “Kid A” have been incessant staples of this tour’s big stops), this isn’t really summer music at all. Right down to the tour’s awkwardly assembled indoor performances, these shows seem like a complete truncation of summer and of people’s identity during this season in general.
As any reader of this site will note, I’m a pretty big Liars buff: it took me a while to get into Drum’s Not Dead, which was concurrent with my real immersion in indie music, but by the time we got Liars (2007) I liked it so much that I made the bizarre pact with myself that I’d only listen to it in January or May, a bind which I’ve upheld for the most part until the recent complete collapse of musical depth in critically acclaimed American realms (which I’d associate with the rise of Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen and Fetty Wap, in 2015, along with the demise of the often auspicious journal Coke Machine Glow, that same year). Long story short: I’ll take what I can get.
So what I get is: AN INDOOR TOUR of the band touted as the “World’s Greatest Rock,” tiptoeing through the tulips with this timid electronica fluff accompanied with a grating falsetto, utilizing what aren’t even good PROGRAMMED sounds (just as an owner of Fruity Loops I can tell they’re not even very punctilious or ambitious with their drum programming)… and the echoes are still resounding of all these people claiming to adore Kid A just for that album’s superficial unapproachability, a pretentiousness on their part evident to me for their refusal to ever name a single SONG off of that album they really favor [1]. Sheffield says “It would be hard to assemble a list of Radiohead songs that DON’T sound timely now” (he’s talking about in this Trump era), but then the defining tracks he lists as really embodying this aren’t “Rock” at all, like “Idioteque” (actually he tragically discards “Creep” as an appropriate Yorke ode in 2018, a track steeped in their early cranked-up-Fender days). When you pit what he’s extolling here, this anthemic summer “rock” tour, with the reality of what’s happening, laughably flaccid whine-fests like “Kid A”; “Morning Bell”; “Fake Plastic Trees”; “Daydreaming” and “Idioteque”; the sheer vast discrepancy in his claim makes it obvious that his only goal is to praise unconventional, uncomfortable music as a virtue by way of its own convoluted identity.
Liars are a “band” I’ve liked for a while who, like Radiohead, are capable of winding up and hauling off with some serious straight-ahead rock (“The Garden Was Crowded and outside”; “Plaster Casts of Everything”; “Scarecrows on a Killer Slant”), but also weaving these delicate webs of jazz-based ambience, as in the case of the slow songs on Drum’s Not Dead and also the vast majority of their most recent effort, TFCF (which yes is basically an Angus Andrew solo project, though he still retains the band moniker). Provided that all of this is done with zeal and purpose, and Liars have been critically acclaimed pretty much their whole career with the exception of the rightly derided They Were Wrong So We Drowned of 2004, this does indeed position them as the American Radiohead, and I’d say that their primary competition in this is Grizzly Bear and Deerhoof, neither of whom have the summery sense of humor or structural whimsicality of Liars. Liars can pepper in with some warming pop (TFCF’s “No Tree No Branch”), burst your ear drums with some uncompromising rock (“Cycle Time”), or just create a weird, otherworldly and unforgettable musical experience by sheer repetitive Los Angeles tension (“A Visit from Drum”). Within the pop songs like “No Tree No Branch” or “Sailing to Byzantium,” we find a Beatles influence that’s very valuable to the rudimentary zeitgeist of summer (think the Let it Be campfire singalong “I’ve Got a Feeling,” for instance). Sure, discomfort might be in order for occasions of such a lurid president as America currently furnishes. But such a mood has no place at a rock concert. What we need at those is, well, ROCK, a fact which should be obvious enough from the entity’s very framework, but apparently bears repeating in this particular case.
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[1] I’ve seen this unfortunate phenomenon rear its ugly head in the form of an interview with John Frusciante, as well as with this one English prof. I had who claimed in class to like “Kid A” while not even naming a single track off of it that especially resonated with him. As it happens, Radiohead’s fourth studio album is incredibly scattershot, not very coherent but rather embodying everything from ambient IDM to dubstep to piano pop to the alternative rock which had been their flagship on efforts prior.

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