Although the first Liars album was little more than a glorified EP, it contained a nice amount of gutpunching moments and marked the group as one to watch with their gloriously nonsensical lyrics and spastic energy. After a year of touring and seeming indecision about which way they wanted to go, the foursome cracked down the middle, with the rhythm section (probably the most important part of their debut) going their own way while lead singer Angus Andrew and guitarist Aaron Hemphill circled the wagons and isolated themselves in a New Jersey cabin, then invited friend Julian Gross (who ended up playing drums and various other instruments) along for the ride.
You've probably already read it elsewhere, but it bears repeating that They Were Wrong So We Drowned is a completely different beast than their debut of They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top. Their last album was mixed melodic rips of guitar with complex rhythm sections, and the group got tossed in along with several other dance-punk outfits. In the 10 tracks and just over 42 minutes on this offering, there are very little melodies to hang your hat on, and while the rhythm section is still there in some part, it's been ripped apart like their old sound.
The release opens nicely with "Broken Witch," a chanting, fever-dream of a track that builds with repetitious vocals and squalls of grimey keyboard and chipper drumming that sounds like almost all the kick has been sucked out of it. It's noise-trance music, and it works well to get one in the mindset of what they'll be hearing from there out. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the album isn't nearly as focused. Although holing up and trying to recreate delirium based on a theme of both the persecutors and persecuted of witchcraft is a great theme (I imagine the makers of The Blair Witch Project did something similar), it doesn't always make for a very interesting album.
"Steam Rose From The Lifeless Cloak" and "Read The Book That Wrote Itself" are middling attempts at atmosphere, mixing distorted drums and dark washes of distorted sound that don't really go anywhere while the first single from the disc, "There's Always Room On The Broom" is another mash of distorted, skronked out keyboards and tinny drums that grate on the ears more than they do hook them. Having said the above, there are some tracks where the group seems to hit on all cylinders and really pull things off amazingly. The one-two punch of "We Fenced Other Homes With The Bones Of Our Own" and "They Don't Want Your Corn They Want Your Kids" are the best moments on the entire release. The former rumbles along with a slathering of juicy, tribal-influenced rhythm and chanted vocals while the latter busts loose with bursts of propulsive drumming and odd skittering electronics.
"Hold Hands And It Will Happen Anyway" is probably the closest bridge-point to the older work that the group has done, but even it's a distant bastard cousin with loose bass jangles and shards of distorted guitars scraping and squealing over everything. If you were a fan of the last album by the group, this one might be a hard road to walk. It's certainly less catchy and melodic, and while it doesn't work stunningly as a whole, there are places where the group comes together to create dark and blistering rock tracks that stand with the best work they've ever done. Based on interviews (and now the sound of this second release), it seems like The Liars might be a group that tries to tackle a different sound with each release. I only hope they don't stretch themselves any more thin than they already have.