Liars at Mad Planet
- John C. Reilly And Friends go underground—literally—for first-ever show at Miller Caves
- Scenes from the 2013 Locust Street Festival
- Gogol Bordello and Bombino electrify Pabst Theater
- Twin Shadow delivers too little too late at lackluster Turner Hall show
- They Might Be Giants please die-hards and newcomers alike at Turner Hall
The only time Liars haven’t reinvented themselves from one album to the next has been between 2007’s Liars and 2010’s Sisterworld, both relatively straightforward, noisy rock records with a high booty-shake quotient despite their disturbing imagery and sometimes plodding rhythms. With the new WIXIW, the band charges full-bore into electronic beats, proving once again that it takes very little embellishment to turn a succinct melody or riff and an insistent beat into memorable music. The live setting poses a different challenge, though: Faced with a finite array of instruments and buttons, could they give the smooth WIXIW tunes that visceral, tribal Liars edge? Could they make the synthetic primitive? Answer: yup.
This band has always emphasized texture and rhythm over song, but ever since the 2006 moody masterpiece Drum’s Not Dead, Liars have written more pointed and conventionally structured tunes. This philosophy threatened to turn Liars into a normal-sounding band, but it also resulted in some of their best standalone pieces, and they worked better as bursts of energy within the diverse setlist at Mad Planet Wednesday night than on their respective albums. “Scarecrows On A Killer Slant” ignited the crowd after a WIXIW-heavy opening, and “Plaster Casts Of Everything” ended the night by inciting a loosely defined mosh pit that involved a good two-thirds of the enthusiastic crowd. These were perhaps the most overtly attention-grabbing songs, but the constant throughout the night was the infectious rhythm, calling to mind every band from Flipper to Nick Cave to Fugazi to Animal Collective.
As the more organic-based music collided with the digital beats without any jarring clashes, it became apparent that Drum’s Not Dead could easily be remade live without physical drums, just as WIXIW would easily translate into a bongo circle around a bonfire. After a lengthy encore chant, the band emerged with “Be Quiet Mr. Heart Attack!” It bristled with brand-new energy, whereas Angus Andrew’s vicious cymbal-bashing during “No. 1 Against The Rush” and the thoroughly engrossing “Wixiw” evoked a similar attitude to the band’s earliest days, every bit as thrilling as the rousing rendition of “Hold Hands And It Will Happen Anyway.” So the percussive thread that runs through the Liars catalog still reigns supreme, but did the new songs transcend the novelty of the electronic motif to capture that creepy but celebratory essence that defines the band? Answer: yup.