Liars have never been known to repeat themselves. The trio have always been on frontline of experimentation in rock music and have tweaked their sound with each subsequent release, to some extent channeling the city they surround themselves in in their music.
Take their two previous record for example. On 2006’s Drum’s Not Dead the group infused elements of ambiance, minimalism, drone and pounding, affected drums all together. Part of the brilliance of that record is its kraut influence, ever so fitting seeing as it was recorded in Berlin. On its 2007 follow-up, Liars’ self-titled album, the band found themselves in Los Angeles and abandoned atmosphere for a more raw sound but did didn’t hesitate to throw in an occasional curveball, or Moodswinger to the equation.
On Sisterworld, Liars find themselves back in Los Angeles, and expectedly find a middle ground between their two previous releases by balancing electronic and rock instrumentation while introducing new orchestral elements alien to their back-catalog.
On paper, this may sound great, perhaps a step forward for the band, but in practice Sisterworld falls a bit flat especially when looked at in the same light as its predecessors. And while lack of guidance may be part of Liars’ charm, Sisterworld seems to be authentically misguided, taking one page too many from their past two releases and merely blending them without rhyme or reason. That’s not to say that it’s without its moments of brilliance, when they finally do deviate far enough from their past.
“Scissor” opens up the album gracefully with its elegant strings and somber vocals until its crashing drums and guitars fall upon you unexpectedly. Following, “No Barrier Fun” (which I’ll go out on a limb and say is the strongest track, although I expect many fans will flock towards harrowing rocker “Scarecrows on a Killer Slant”) encompasses what makes Liars truly great, atmosphere. Melancholy bass plays alongside unwelcoming strings to create a truly marveling and emotional track, something devoid on the rest of the album.
At the same time, tracks like “Proud Evolution” lead me to believe that the band should be heading in a completely different direction. The infectious, synth-driven, and kraut-inspired anthem will make you question whether this was the same set of guys that put out They Were Wrong, So We Drowned.
Sisterworld clearly displays a band afraid to commit to a single new direction. Sisterworld‘s true fault is that many individual aspects of it are done well, but its different styles clash so much that it falters as a whole. Don’t be mistaken, Liars do take new steps on this album, but while clinging onto familiar elements that they’re overly comfortable with.
As much as I’d love for these guys to go back to Germany, I think they’ve proven that they’re better off going somewhere completely new, musically too.