It has been more than twenty years since the first incarnation of Liars was formed, their critically acclaimed They Threw us all in a Trench…, a spiky, noisy post-punk bomb of a record which, rather than define the nascent project’s direction for the following two decades, served as a point from which to diverge and evolve as much as one which laid down a blueprint for any particular style or identity. Following the gradual departure of all founding members aside from lead vocalist and creative force Angus Andrew, the only true constant which binds the past with the present, it is the Australian-American’s creative identity which remains forever intertwined with that of his own evolving labour of love.
For all of the talk of The Apple Drop being the album which sees Andrew truly take the creative reins as he strides out into new sonic territory, accompanied on this outing by multi-instrumentalist Cameron Dyell and PVT drummer Laurence Pike, the result has been one of the most accessible Liars offerings for a good while, a dark, pulsating record which sticks to a given identity rather than skidding around without ever finding its feet. For all the potential pitfalls inherent in a transition in both personnel and acoustic endeavour, The Apple Drop feels polished, cohesive and complete.
The album starts by placing out a sonic marker, ‘The Start’ kicking things off with a rocky, almost grungy opener which sounds the record’s opening salvo, thumping drums accompanied by rocky guitar distortion and Andrew’s own signature vocal style, a nod to the band’s noisy rock heritage. The follow-up, ‘Slow and Turn Inward’, fits with the theme of each track belying a small amount of its identity in the title, a little quieter and more introspective, Andrew’s vocals lower and more mannered as his inner Nick Cave strains for the limelight.
The Apple Drop, while cohesive and sporting a strong identity, couldn’t be accused of being one note, the woozy, spoken-word electronic stylings of ‘Sekwar’ showing that Liars’ creative force is still looking to turn his hand to exploring new musical avenues. ‘Sekwar’, despite being one of the record’s three singles, might be one of the most idiosyncratic offerings in what is a comparatively comprehensible opening first half, the uneasy edge then softened by the excellent ‘Big Appetite’, a simple, surging epic which puts one in mind of mid-period Radiohead, a basic, repeated bass riff knitting things together as The Apple Drop really starts to unfurl.
Elsewhere, there are plenty of oddities to be enjoyed and confused by in equal measure, from the disturbingly ambient ‘My Pulse to Ponder’, a sharper, gnarlier track with the repeated refrain of “I cut your throat, I cut your throat” and the soaring, cymbal-laden headiness of ‘Acid Crop’, as well as a few tracks which can, especially within the blurry, freeform setting of the album’s own landscape, feel a little directionless, such as ‘Leisure War’ and ‘King of the Crooks’. You’ll likely be so immersed in The Apple Drops dripping atmosphere, however, to be truly perturbed.
Ultimately, Liars’ latest offering is a deft blend of past and present, an album which could have seen sub-optimal results rendered from a difficult transitional period, but any sense that Angus Andrew is feeling the strain of creative doubt is all but imperceptible here. The album’s title implies a moment of realisation, a Newtonian instant in which the light is finally seen and the truth revealed; that interpretation might be a little abstract for some, but the fact remains that Andrew and Liars continue to demonstrate an undiminished capacity to change, evolve and delight in equal measure.
Words by Harry Alexander
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