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Liars – WIXIW May 29, 2012

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Music.
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Artist: Liars

Album: WIXIW

Release: Mute, 2012

Genre: Experimental

RIYD: Radiohead, that song where Wilco sounded like Radiohead

A few years back, in response to a hacked email scandal in relation to insatiable buzz over an impending music leak, Bradford Cox (of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound fame) had this to say:

“Back in the 90′s when I was first starting to make 4-track tapes I had a game where I would make a fake version of an album I was anticipating. If Pavement’s Brighten the Corners were coming out soon, I had to wait till release day to hear it. I would record a set of songs that I would want the Pavement album to sound like. Some of those songs ended up becoming Atlas Sound and Deerhunter songs years later.

My advice to those who are so desperate for AC’s album to leak is to pick up instruments and make your own version of what you would want it to sound like. Respect the BANDS wishes and wait till release day. Then you can compare your new songs with theirs. Who knows. Maybe your album will be the one people are wanting to leak next year.”

Though I don’t usually appreciate Bradford Cox’s blogosphere sass, he presents an interesting idea. Granted, we don’t all have the means, patience, creativity, and skills involved with making an album, but I can get on board with the sentiment, and apparently, so can Liars. WIXIW (pronounced “wish you”, as in, “I wixiw were here with me”), the band’s “electronic” sixth album, finds them experimenting with a variety of synthetic textures, and the result sounds just like Radiohead. It’s as if the band followed Bradford Cox’s advice to the letter, writing and recording what they had hoped last year’s The King Of Limbs would sound like and finally releasing it as a Liars album just a year later. In fact, some preliminary reviews are going so far as to call WIXIW “the best Radiohead album since Kid A.”

I understand that many fans were disappointed with The King Of Limbs (though I don’t understand why) so maybe those reviews speak the truth when they claim that WIXIW is comprised of the songs that disappointed Radiohead fans wished had been on it, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the next Kid A. I will admit, though, that the resemblance is uncanny. Especially on tracks like “Ill Valley Prodigies”, “His And Mine Sensations”, and “Who Is The Hunter” where frontman Angus Andrews whips out his weary falsetto, it sounds as if the band is intentionally mimicking Thom Yorke and his crew.

This is not surprising, given that both bands have cited each other as influences, toured together, and traded remixes over recent years, but what is surprising is how well Liars pull it off. Drawing comparisons to a band like Radiohead is treading very dangerous waters, but luckily Liars have the experimental approach, the musical talent, and the balls to tackle it head on. They wanted to make a Radiohead album, so they did, and it says something about their abilities that the result sounds just as good if not better than most of what’s on The King Of Limbs.

Though it’s hard to talk about WIXIW without that direct comparison, the album is actually just as much Liars as it is Radiohead. For instance, I doubt Radiohead would ever make a track as thunderous and blearily discordant as the visceral title track, “WIXIW”, and the distorted noise-dance-punk of the penultimate track “Brats” could only come from a band who has a They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top in their back catalog. Though the album represents a departure from the harsh dynamics of the 2007 self-titled and 2010’s Sisterworld, tracks such as “Proud Evolution” have hinted at this new direction for quite some time, making it seem like the next logical step for the band as opposed to a direct copy of someone else’s sound. Just as Bradford Cox incorporated his versions of Pavement into Deerhunter songs, Liars incorporate their versions of Radiohead into Liars songs, and not the other way around. The tracks on WIXIW are definitively Liars, and they add themselves to quite an impressive discography of intriguing rock experiments.

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