As much as we all like to think it’s otherwise, New York is not the only place to be creative, and Liars are one of the few bands to have emerged from the city and gone beyond, already perhaps savvy to that fact. Back at the start of the noughties, when all of rock ‘n’ roll had its eyes and ears fixed on Gotham’s post-punk revivalism, the band took all the attention they could get for their debut album (They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top) and ran. Rather than stay in New York and continue to reflect the pervading sound about town, they spent the next ten years moving around the globe, forcing themselves into differing mindsets for each of their subsequent five albums, almost never looking back.
It’s been a wild, unpredictable, even dangerous journey, but as the prodigal sons return to their original home tonight, they have a lot of wonderful, visceral musical snapshots of their mental and physical adventures to share with us. The majority of them, of course, come from their latest, WIXIW (pronounced “wish you”), which captures the electronic-based experiments they have conjured up in their current L.A. based-isolation. Accordingly, the unearthly ambience of songs like “The Exact Colour Of Doubt” and “Octagon” make for tense and unsettling openers, as frontman Angus Andrew lurches over his keyboards and howls into the microphone like an overgrown horror movie hero.
Before long, the trio, Andrew, along with Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross, begin to free themselves physically, exploring the stage as they launch into the unearthly pounding that underscores “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt Heart Attack.” It’s a rhythmic relic of the years spent in Berlin deconstructing rhythms until they made no sense, but as they piece the song’s tribal beats together on stage, those eerie cadences somehow make more sense than ever before.
There’s even room for a quick revisit to their roots with a unhinged run-through of “Pillars Were Hollow And Filled With Candy So We Tore Them Down”, which Andrew prologues by explaining that the song was written in New York. Shout out! They may have been all around the world, but it’s unlikely that those spastic post-punk grooves which Liars weaned themselves on all those years ago connect with any set of fans as intrinsically as they do with the front row of Webster Hall tonight.
The simmering evil incantation that is “Broken Witch” rounds the evening off and is augmented by the sight of a stage-diver engaging Andrew in a shamanistic jig before Liars quietly disappear, presumably to plot the next stage of their endless exploration. It’s anybody’s guess as to what they’ll have to show us the next time they come back home.