One of the first things I did after pressing play on Mess, the new, seventh album from Liars, was take my pants off. Only because a voice with Satanic inflections demands it on the opening song, “Mask Maker.” If you fail to comply, it’s your face that’ll get eaten.
Mess is the Liars’ devilishly drugged-up descent into dance music. Thirty seconds in a sharp, popping drum beat inflates the track until you’re dancing like a horned demon, boxer-clad and with brown acid stuck between each tooth.
The first single, “Mess On A Mission,” is a joyously snotty punk whip with singer Angus Andrew gaggling the title in a panicked falsetto. It’s unhinged and almost clowny, but somehow sticks in your head. “Facts are facts and fiction’s fiction,” Andrew sings spitting each word.
Mess is more abrasive than the last Liars album, WIXIW, which saw Andrew and mates Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross diving blindly into electronic tinkering and atmospheric resonance. The experience of that experimentation has taken root and found a lavish coexistence with the street-trash rock-and-roll of their earliest work. This mash creates a surreal listening experience that thrives on the emotion of doom and anxiety.
The tall Aussie plank of wood that is frontman Andrew is the force keeping the album from devolving into a slipshod jam session with buttons and knobs. The desperate, black-out energy behind his voice goes from the lower depths of an entranced guard in The Wizard Of Oz to the manic-high pitch of someone being tickled to their limit. He has many shades of strange and delirium. On “Pro Anti Anti” he emotes like a down-and-out-of-shape Jim Morrison as a tremulous organ surges through zaps of electric bass.
Mess is also the most outright hallucinogenic Liars album. Each hit of bass is muggy and drills deep into the skull. Sounds trail in and out against smudgy organ drum loops. It could be found somewhere in the blurring shadows of The King Of Limbs and Drukqs. “Dress Walker” enters the space race with a Kraftwerk-esque downbeat and the squeamish monotone panderings of Andrew. It climbs on echoes, then side-steps into juicy, space-funk.
The voiceless “Darkslide” is a ball of loops gyrating and splintering up and out. “Perpetual Village” is body-lifting as it slinks along with cosmic sound-waves and pitched drum beats. The final song, “Left Speaker Blown,” moves slow like a flickering candle. Low pulsing feedback is pulled from side to side and shot beyond the periphery of sound until a warm peace overcomes. Could be one of their most beautiful compositions.
With each new record Liars rip the script of the previous creative outing, challenging themselves to discover a new floor in their apartment of sound. If Mess ever hits a snag, it’s with the arduous noise explorations that sometimes threaten the flow of the full unit. Depends if you want to move to your music or zone out to it, either way, Liars allow both. This collection of dark, pepped-up dance tracks is a midnight burner for the long, weird, end-of-the-world basement party you may or may not be having.