Noise rock can be pretty awesome. Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon built a home out of raw fucking noise and turned a million kids onto the energy and beauty that can be made out of screeches, thuds, clanks and drones. More recently, bands like Xiu Xiu and the Unicorns have incorporated bleeding noise into a context of harmony and songwriting, creating a sound all their own. The issue is that noise is defined as sound that is loud, unpleasant, unexpected, or undesired. Unfortunately, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned covers all four of this bases, and on many counts lands on that last one and just sits there.
It’s pretty clear that no one still cares about the electro-rock-dance-bullshit-press-monster that spewed out of Brooklyn in 2002. We’re all tired of hearing about this “scene” — which hardly even exists — yet we’re all interested to see if anyone can put their money where their mouth is. That is to say, follow up these striking debuts with worthwhile — and more so, justifying — records. It seems like Liars took this pretty seriously, and to a fault. The elements that made their debut so engaging have been abandoned entirely in favor of an artier, noisy, droning shape.
Frankly, They Were Wrong can be divided into the listenable and the terrible. What is listenable contains some structure, a diversion from what worked for Liars previously, and is something of a step in a unique direction. “There’s Always Room on the Broom” combines Angus Andrew’s ferocious vocal delivery, the band’s main strength, with the beat repetitions, throbbing guitars and an anthem-ranting chant about witchery or something.
Yes, such rants were a big part of 2001’s They Threw Us All in a Trench … , but combined here with the new screech and drone-fest sound, it is a combination that works in connotating the terror they’re going for. “They Don’t Want Your Corn They Want Your Kids” feels like a lost Make-Up song, with a percussive throb layered with some moog tweaks that makes it Liars’ own. But that’s about it.
A series of repetitions characterizes the unlistenable. “Steam Rose from the Lifeless Cloak” is essentially a drumbeat with some screeches added for effect. The dull drone that permeates the record has the connotations of the creepy places in David Lynch films. In fact, listening to this induces feelings akin to the aching weariness of watching Eraserhead with a tequila hangover. This witch idea does in fact work for the sound they’ve concocted, as less of a concept but a theme for the maliciousness of this noise piece.
This is a band whose nature, it seems, is to keep people guessing. Commendable, yes; perhaps next time they’ll get it right. Until then, I’ll only pull this one out on Devil’s Night.