After making densely packed, high-concept albums like They Were Wrong, So We Drowned and Drum's Not Dead, the most experimental thing Liars could do was make their version of a pop album. Liars strips away most of the concepts and some of the ornate sonics of the band's previous two albums, leaving a simpler, smaller-scale album with as much impact as their more ambitious work. Each song here is focused -- only a handful stretch past four minutes long -- but Liars wanders wherever it wants to, touching on noise, prog, hard rock, punk, industrial, and other styles the band has flirted with in the past, as well as a few uncharted ones. The album begins with "Plaster Casts of Everything," a flame-throwing rock behemoth that sounds even heavier compared to the largely atmospheric sound of Drum's Not Dead. While it's just as furious as anything from They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, it isn't a return to how they did rock before. Likewise, "Cycle Time"'s art-damaged biker metal and "Clear Island"'s snotty, dystopian electro garage rock are unmistakably Liars -- loud, weird, oddly tribal -- but don't sound rehashed. They feel fresh, and so does the band's new attention to songcraft and structure. Those two words sound like they should hinder the band's momentum, but actually, they refine it. This is especially apparent on "Freak Out," which turns brilliantly dumb drums, rumbling guitars, and a melody sweet enough to be a soda-pop jingle into the catchiest song the band has done since "There's Always Room on the Broom." "Freak Out"'s mix of art, noise, and pop recalls mid- to late-'80s Sonic Youth, an influence that also popped up on Drum's Not Dead and that Liars explore more fully on this album. The cavernous, dissonant "What Would They Know" and "Pure Unevil"'s nose-diving guitars owe a debt to EVOL and Bad Moon Rising, but never feel derivative. Liars also uses Drum's Not Dead's sonic depth sparingly and artfully, as on "Leather Prowler"'s ominously muffled layers of organic and digital decay, and expands on that album's vulnerability with "Protection," which manages to sound nostalgic and uneasy at the same time. In between Liars' ferocious rock and more expansive tracks, the band finds time to go in still other intriguing directions. "Houseclouds" is all funky falsettos, rattlesnake beats, and undulating keyboards, and could pass for a mischievous collaboration between Beck and Radiohead; "Sailing to Byzantium" detours into late night dub-prog. In a lesser band's hands, this kaleidoscopic approach could be a muddled mess, but it makes for Liars' most entertaining album yet. It's a good thing the band waited until this album to make it their namesake: Liars may very well be the best representation they can do.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares