Pop & Hiss

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Live review: Liars at the El Rey Theatre

April 12, 2010 |  3:03 pm
Few bands know how to be simultaneously funny and scary as well as Liars. The perennially expatriated trio (most recently from Berlin) has examined many styles, from the damned and danceable growl of Suicide, to an archly dumb-as-a-post rock riffage to an ambient swoon worthy of their good friends in Radiohead.

On its latest album, “Sisterworld,” (whose recording was itself an L.A. noir tale of weed stores and sci-fi sex parties), the band finally synthesized all these impulses into something singular and deliciously unnerving. But at the El Rey Theatre on Saturday, the band played it as a black comedy for stateless weirdos.

Much of this is to the credit of frontman Angus Andrew. Like fellow native Aussie Nick Cave, he’s a stringy-haired, gravel-voiced prophet of doom who, if music ceases to work out for him, could easily start a career shooting people for fun in Coen brothers movies.

He trawls the stage maintaining a facial expression of uniform displeasure at his audience, his band and himself alike, all while poking at a bank of electronics like it was something spoiled in the back of his fridge. On record, his vocal presence is defiantly spooky; live though, it’s clear he’s having the time of his life up there.

His band was on a complementary trajectory, standing stock still while conjuring up a sulfurous mix of electronic shrieks, tribal drums and cheeky hardcore riffage. “Sisterworld” has some of the band’s best source material yet,  but where tracks like “Proud Evolution “ and the trip-hoppish “No Barrier Fun “ sound woozy and bedraggled on record, live they hit with the half-remembered panic of a night terror. The band’s older records each mined genres from dance-punk to mock-stadium rock to sheer avant-garde, but “Sisterworld” is the first time they’ve put it all together and made it new.

Liars also benefited from a guitar assist by Fol Chen’s Adam Goldman, who has his own intriguing new album of wry, deadpan experimental rock out now as the band tours with Liars. Fol Chen’s new single “In Ruins” is the exact opposite of Liars in a great way -- it’s a jaunty bedroom R&B tune that misdirects from the Highland Park band’s pretty bleak heart.

-- August Brown

Photo: Angus Andrew. Credit: thesisterworld.com.