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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

An effusive explanation of how the Liars' new album, Drum's Not Dead, became my new religion

By Jesse Sawyer

Holy echoing tribal drums of interstellar devastation, Batman! The new Liars album is out! And it’s not just good, it’s transcendental, a high water mark for all of civilization, the Marxist-Hegelian end of History, the second coming of the prophesied sonic messiah, an altar unto itself, and worthy of any pompous hyberbole you can throw at it. Am I being ridiculous? Is this the absurd gibberish of a man deadline crunched and saturated with Ancient Age Kentucky Straight? Or is it completely accurate to declare Drum’s Not Dead (Mute Records) one of the best-produced albums to emerge this century? Because, regardless of my current condition, I’m willing to throw my money on the latter and let it ride.

First thing’s first, ye potential worshipers of the Sacred Church of Liarsology: any of y’all kids looking for another dose of that dance punk stuff that first propelled these boys into your consciousness, piss off. The sounds that emerge from your speakers when playing DND are more likely to induce paranoiac fear than syncopated ass-shaking. (Excepting of course, the very real possibility that you will be inclined toward some sort of ritualistic Shaman dance to ward off the evil represented in the album’s narrative by “Mt. Heart Attack,” in which case, dance on, young medicine man and help our hero “Drum” through the sacrificial burning of herbs and bloodletting.)

Secondly, it should be understood from the outset that the Sacred Church holds its meetings deep in some sort of cavernous structure, such that the acoustic reverberation of its droning spirituality is unparalleled in its depth. The album, recorded in some sort of Berlin acoustical paradise, has a sound not unlike the abyssal wash of an opium high, the low-end floor toms hammering into waves of manipulated noise like Hannibal’s war-elephant charging towards its enemy Roman horde, while the vocals resound their ghostly chants across a range of dread-soaked baritones and hollowed-out falsetto sweeps. The effect is incredible, making the empty space in the album’s harmonic spectrum as crucial as that which is filled with instrumentation, a feat that has the power to turn the listener’s skull into an empty sound-chamber through which songs trample and tremble with supernatural force.

Somewhere amidst all of this there’s a narrative. Playing out across the gorgeous stage built by the album’s aural foundation is a battle of good and evil, personified by the characters Drum and Mt. Heart Attack, respectively. To be honest, I have no idea how this all plays out. I’m willing to take the album’s title at face value and assume that, at the very least, our hero doesn’t die. Beyond that, the album’s music evokes response more than the (sometimes unintelligible) lyrics, and the narrative exists as much in the musical trajectory of fear, doom, and glacial melancholy than in any concrete character-driven story.

Did I mention the cinematic side of this endeavor? I didn’t, you say? Well, damn, kid, this isn’t just a perfect album, y’know. The Liars have gone all multi-media on us, and included with the album is a DVD containing three full films to accompany the album, two by members of the band, and one by filmmaker Markus Wambsganss. Drummer Julian Gross’s is probably the most enjoyable of the three, and involves not just footage of the band recording the album, but flying slices of bread, claymation characters at a petting zoo, space whales, an existentially-perplexed Jesus Christ, and a volcano that erupts ice cream, followed by a film involving a sinister toothbrush. It could be genius, or it could be simply stoned. A slight difference, if you ask me.

This album will probably not be given its full due for some time, I suspect. Even considering its 9.0 rating on and other equally praising reviews, the fact that the band has so fully alienated its original listening base (their second album, a concept album about witch trials entitled They Were Wrong So We Drowned, was given a zero-star rating by Rolling Stone) will make it an uphill climb for DND. However, the album’s fullness of vision and self-redefinition make it the Kid A of the Liars pantheon, and with any justice, it’ll be considered as such and given its proper respect. It is, after all, the best album ever, you know. Come join the converts.

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