Anyone who saw Liars cover Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings" during last year's summer tour might have suspected that, despite the seemingly irredeemable freakiness of 2004's They Were Wrong So We Drowned and 2006's Drum's Not Dead, the New Yorkers hadn't lost track of their more conventional roots. Sure enough, for this eponymous LP Liars bring back the rock, but Led Zeppelin they ain't. Though Liars is more accessible than its predecessors, it's still not particularly accessible. Pounding opener "Plaster Casts of Everything" yields to the pleasant and danceable "Houseclouds," as the band sounds a bit like mid-'80s Wire. But "Leather Prowler" unceremoniously dumps the listener back into Liars' trademark clattering weirdness — only to be plucked out by the eerily beautiful "Sailing to Byzantium," then jostled again by the creepy garage of "What Would They Know." So it goes, so it always goes for Liars, who use pop and rock the same way unrepentant outsiders like This Heat, Chrome, Indian Jewelry, Pere Ubu or especially the Residents do: as both a foil for the difficulty of their stranger ideas, and a setting for their music's truly alien emotional content. Like their other records, Liars is slippery, disturbing, unconventional and a terrible tease. It's also absurdly ingenious.


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