The other night daughter Laurel and I were driving around, listening to rock music on the college end of the radio dial. Probably WNUR or WLUW. Normally, when I’m listening to this end of the dial, I’m looking for fast and loud. In fact, there’s a show on WNUR called Fast n’ Loud, and it’s one of my favorite things on the air.
But a song came on that slowly insinuated itself into my consciousness—you know how that goes, you’re driving, talking, thinking about your next errand and suddenly you become aware of the music playing. It was industrial sounding and hypnotically repetitive, but not in the overly synthesized way a lot of industrial dance music is these days. When I said it sounded “not uninteresting,” Laurel said she had a CD I might like, by The Liars.
I’d seen The Liars perform once before when they were touring with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. At the time, at least, The Liars’ lead singer was dating the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen Oh. Cute, right? I remember The Liars being good, but pretty much a funk-driven art school party band. A lot of fun in concert, but nothing memorable.
They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, their 2004 release, is not art school party music. It is industrial and dense and just as wonderfully dark as the title promises. According to one reviewer, it is inspired by a type of German witchcraft. Certainly the song titles bear this out: Broken Witch, for instance, seen in a live performance at New York’s Knitting Factory below. And There’s Always Room on the Broom and They Don’t Want Your Corn, They Want Your Kids.
Often I talk about actively listening to music. This album seems just as satisfying heard in the background—at home, driving, on the subway. Its layers of electronic sounds are balanced by almost feral instrumentation [simple, repetitive drum beats, in particular] and vocals reduced [or refined] to chants. The overall effect is like a disturbing movie soundtrack. In fact, the fifth track, We Fenced Other Gardens With The Bones Of Our Own, sounds like nothing so much as that moment in a dark thriller in which revelations have happened and one character is suddenly in determined, methodical pursuit of another. We know that soon one of them will die, violently.
Okay, I’m guessing none of this is making They Were Wrong, So We Drowned sound like the feel good album of the year. But it is a satisfyingly moody listen. According to Laurel, their latest album is similarly interesting. I think I’ll be exploring that one too. One of the great things about our household, in fact, is how we’re all bringing new—and old—music into the house and constantly learning from one another. A topic for another post, perhaps.