Liars: TFCF

- Over the course of the years (seventeen of ‘em now) and, in that time, eight whole full-lengths, Liars are a band who’ve always been changing it up, always keeping us guessing. As has been widely noted, that applies nowhere more strongly than on latest album TFCF.

After reaching a poorly received creative nadir on previous record, the aptly titled Mess, the creative core of Liars -the songwriting duo of Angus Andrew and Aaron Hemphill- split. That break has been referred to as ‘amicable’, but Andrew, the last man standing, doesn’t quite seem able to maintain the facade.

Although Liars and Andrew in particular have made their name by subverting expectations, by the same token this is a guy who likes to wear his emotions on his sleeve. TFCF which stands for “Theme From Crying Fountain” is in both creative and emotional terms, a breakup record. Just look at poor Andrew there on the cover, all dolled up in his bridal gown and no-one’s gonna make sweet music with him.

He has plenty of his own creative impulses left as it happens and Andrew returned to his hometown, Sydney, to pour all of them out. I say that, but a lot of what’s here was, perhaps unsurprisingly, already fully formed. Andrew has said he created “thousands of little files” as everything came apart in LA, before taking these shattered remains back to Australia to try and piece them into something salvageable, some semblance of a record, or even his band.

If the emotional arc is reasonably obvious, the artistic one is as enigmatic as ever. Those thousands of little files are not stylistically united, although there are a few similarities. Andrew’s pained, constant mumbling doesn’t front the music so much as lurk behind it, like he was constantly distracted, trying to crystalise just how he’s feeling into a dictaphone while the songs churn on in the studio. Churn on they do, running wild through all sorts of genres, refracted through Andrew’s bent sensibility. From the grinding country-blues of The Grand Delusional, through the sharp, electro beats of Staring At Zero and crashing through the strangely compelling, warped, singer-songwriter pop of No Tree No Branch. Compelling it can be, too. This is in no way neat or easy, but amongst the fallout, many of these creative fragments are still touched with the genius we’ve known from Liars throughout the years.

To me TFCF falls fairly easily in amongst that tradition of hoary old art-rockers, guys who’ve seen a bit too much of what’s real and have the smarts to turn it into a grim memoir. Mark LaneganJohn Grant, Thom Yorke or Beck, they’ve all been down this road. It’s not the place of such records, generally, to be anything like a chart-topper and, well, Angus Andrew’s thoughts are a grimmer thing to spend time with than most. Many of these records, however, do turn out to be essential elements in an artistic catalogue and, while I’m still coming to terms with TFCF, this may be a pivotal moment for Angus Andrew and Liars.

Chris Cobcroft.  

 

Album Details

Album Title: TFCF
Artist: Liars
Record Label: (Mute / [PIAS] / Inertia)