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Liars: Drum's Not Dead

B+

Liars

Album: Drum's Not Dead
Label: Mute

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For a band that helped forge an identity for a New York rock scene still congealing around shared ideas, Liars have wandered into a strange and hermetic world of exile. Their 2001 album They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top traded in a tight dance-punk sound now in heavy circulation. Then came 2004's They Were Wrong So We Drowned, a smeary and less strictly rhythmic noise album lambasted by those wanting a retread. (Spin gave it an F; Rolling Stone granted it one star.)

The shift in direction was severe in a way, but it was also overstated. Liars still love drums, and their blurted calls to arms remain forceful even in an aural fog. Both feature prominently on Drum's Not Dead, a collection of ritualistic rhythms and chants directed toward what sounds like a god hidden in a tom-tom's stretched skin. The tingly guitar that opens the album hints at New York totem Animal Collective, but it comes from Berlin, where Liars moved and set up in a former East German radio studio. There's nothing explicitly Berlin-like in the sound (read: it isn't techno), but the backstory helps account for music that drips with a sense of myth and mystery.

Recurring mentions of characters named "Drum" and "Mt. Heart Attack" in song titles suggest a concept at work, but Drum's Not Dead sounds like it's concerned with inspiring stories more than telling them. Mesmeric songs like "Drum Gets A Glimpse" and "Hold You, Drum" make it an album to wander into and out of, an endless ceremony transferred to tape and left alone.