Less than a year ago I discovered the Make-Up, a band influenced by 1960s garage punk and jazz with a singer who could wail and whine like no other. I used to think it was difficult to accurately compare one band to another, but after hearing the Make-Up, I found myself tracing a number of current bands back to the spirited works of the now-defunct group. Within thirty seconds of listening to the first track off Books Lie’s Hall of Fame of Fire, I thought I had found yet another carbon copy of the retro-tinged band. Pleasant as the Make-Up is, Books Lie turned out to be refreshingly misleading.
As it turns out, Books Lie is a hardcore band whose lead singer, Eric Owens, audibly resembles the James Brown of the 1990s — Make-Up vocalist Ian Svenonious. Opener “Empire Maker” fools the listener not only with singer’s raspy moan, but with its catchy bass line that recalls the Hives’ “Main Offender.” The song is catchy and exciting, but it was relieving to discover that first impressions can be misleading.
The record is divided into two parts: the eight tracks off Book Lie’s first full-length, Hall of Fame of Fire, and “Singles and B-Sides,” which includes former singer and current drummer Adam Peterson, as well as Owens after his singing introduction on 2002’s “Weep.” When analyzed in terms of its halves, the album’s latter portion represents Books Lie more accurately. It covers the band’s brief history as a full-on hardcore band. It varies between the extremely aggressive throb of Agnostic Front and the melodic feel of Avail or Minor Threat.
The eight newest songs, though less demonstrative of the band’s usual sound, are more likely to appeal to those who aren’t necessarily fans of aggressive punk. If anything, the tracks demonstrate the band’s desire to experiment with sound, and versatility is pulled off beautifully on this album. The album’s only awkward moments are “Young MC5” and “Thanks Easter Bunny,” two electronic, minute-long interludes between songs. The obvious jokes are entertaining, but the dual intermission cuts off the perfectly chaotic flow of this album’s latter half. If an album’s flow were organized around the rules of feng shui, the electronic breaks would be the neon orange chairs sitting in the center of a pink-walled living room.
Books Lie has progressed within the last few years, and while their old, traditionally hard sound certainly works for them, they’ve received a rare makeover that, surprisingly, benefits them even more.