THEY WERE WRONGSo
SO WE DROWNED,LIARS
or, as specified by their website,
They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is a dramatic change from Liars' first album. Whereas They Threw Us All In a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top was a beat-driven dance-punk (yes, I hate that genre name too, but I think it's more used than noise-funk or whatever other nicks) short monster, the group did, as foreshadowed by an interview, throw away the basslines and drum beats that were loved on it. Their second album concentrates on sound texture and the beats have changed to ritualistic drumming. This is hard to get by with first, when you expect a record you can dance to, but the songs do grow on you. Preview highly recommended before buying. Whereas the majority of the songs are good, some of them are just flat-out boring.
The album is also the first full-length by the trio Liars: after 2001's They Threw Us, Pat Noecker and Ron Albertson left the band, leaving Angus Andrew and Aaron Hemphill, who recruited their old friend Julian Gross to play the drums. The trio moved to Andrew's cabin in New Jersey for a month to record the album, which is about witch hunts. Not difficult to guess that the name comes from the custom of putting a supposed witch, tied, into the river and waiting for divine intervention if he or she wasn't a witch.
The tracklist seems a bit more coherent than the impressionist titles of the first album, but still features charming ones like "Flow My Tears the Spider Said". The album centers on the witch tales from Brocken Mountain in Germany, the site of Walpurgisnacht. This began when one member mistyped "Broken Witch" as "Brocken Witch" into a search engine. The songs tell about the hunt from two sides: the accused (and maybe real? YOU DECIDE!) witches and the villagers. It was recorded in May 2003, but wasn't released until February 24, 2004. It was produced by David Sitek of TV on the Radio along with Liars themselves.
Making a record about fear is one thing; making a record you fear listening to is quite another.
— Christian Hoard, Rolling Stone
Clocking at around 40 minutes, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is a mix of experimental rock (Hey, I like it, it's a nice place between the extremes) and story-telling, forming a story album. A story album (I haven't heard that about any other album. You?) is basically a loose concept album, tells its story only by planting the ideas in the listener's head in the usual Liars-style known from their first album. A little more defined than the first album, but still not all that clear. It's an important stepping stone before Drum's Not Dead, and relies more on sound texture, as opposed to the rhythm-based They Threw Us. It received mixed reviews from the critics: Rolling Stone gave it only one star - Allmusic four. Others, like NME and Pitchfork Media thought of it as an average (6 out of 10) job, but many were disappointed by the huge change of style.
"Broken Witch" (also known as "Brocken Witch" in the liner notes) starts with a sample of a bell (a friend described it as "the inside of a bell being grinded upon"), repeating three times and getting a bass beep (only it isn't a beep when it's that low) to go with it. Soon the beeps take over(A lower and a higher bass) and the drums make a short appearance. These three (or four if you count both beeps different) start to get the song forward. Then, the bell is made a background for the sounds, and the guitar gets its part. And within seconds, Andrew begins to sing: "I, I am the boy / She, she is the girl / He, he is the bear / We, we, we..." The song soon breaks out to the first verse, although it is just as important as the chorus: both are chanted throughout the song without any more lyrics. Gradually, the song becomes faster and louder, finally ending in "blood, blood, blood" being screamed and quickly descending back into a whisper, before the very last bell and beep. They even managed to make it so that it didn't sound ridiculous.
"Steam Rose From the Lifeless Cloak" is heavy on looping electronics, a bass drum and a guitar's echo providing the melody. And... That's pretty much it. I guess they really needed an interval between "Broken Witch" and "There's Always Room on the Broom", in which the listener is greeted by a warm synth and hi-hat sound. But soon the synth turns into more like a scream and the bass drum is used instead, starting the song. The first, warm sound starts again and "Lay the cross / That's how we choose to wrap it up / Time and grant approved / Oh, what a move" introduces the lyrics. Although the song is a good example of the Liars' "idea planting", but it has the wonderfully weird lyric "In summer wont we want to be in school with everyone? / So now we're all together, / Till we get more damage done."
"If Your a Wizard Then Why Do You Wear Glasses?" [sic] opens by, judging from the sound, crossing through a bush to see the witch circle the sound tells of. The sound is like a controlled explosion with its distorted drumming. The lyrics makes me think of an initiation — if witches have one. The chanting style is limited to only one phrase at a time in this song, but my imagination has a hard time to make anything out of the lyrics. A witch's initiation, maybe? "We Fenced Other Houses with the Bones of Our Own" is a fan favourite. I'm saying this because I don't have words to say what exactly this song sounds like. Most of it is made of repetitive instruments and Andrew's falsetto, although some monotonic contrast gets in, too. "Fly, fly, the devil's in your eye, shoot, shoot / we're doomed, we're doomed!" is the essence of the song, which ends without fanfare.
"They Don't Want Your Corn - They Want Your Kids" gives the listener a boost with a sudden, anxiously fast beeping and calm drum beats. "It's nothing new / But it's something I'd get used to" opens the song that consists mostly of what there already is. It does have dance parts with bells, but they're sadly short when compared to the amount of playing with electronics. The bassline is not one of the best Liars have had, either. "Read the Book That Wrote Itself" has three instruments: the eerie keyboard, ritualistic drumming and... Pencil scribbling. Another instrumental interval lasting a whole song, but it does build a mood. And that mood-building, especially the tribal drumming, builds up for "Hold Hands and It Will Happen Anyway", which begins with just that. With the guitar and lyrics added to the song, it sounds like the album could end with this song - until the overdrive kicks in and creates an atonal screeching to go with the existing guitar. This, along with the screams of "very sorry" (or so I interpreted it) creates an atmosphere of confusion, and possibly the most traditional rock part of the album, ending in the calm drums and a death.
"They Took 14 for the Rest of Our Lives" is another song beginning with a field recording, a meow and flowing of water before the drums start again. Another song it's hard to say much of: the music appears to be impending doom with its soundscape, but yet again, calmly. The song quiets down at three minutes, leaving one minute of quiet background noises to build up for the last song.
"Flow My Tears the Spider Said" begins with a warm synth, almost like going back to There's Always Room on the Broom. You could waltz to this! Two verses are sung in two minutes, the last one being "And the mountain that drew us together is lit / By the lightning that crackles and rivals the wind / Where the only expression of love is through tears / And the highest creation on earth is a bird / The most powerful symbol achieved, let it burn / The most powerful symbol achieved, let it burn". The last four minutes are the outro of the whole album, sounding like they would end to the next note but just continuing on. The sounds of birds bring morning to mind, and Walpurgisnacht is over.
1. Broken Witch - 6:09
2. Steam Rose from the Lifeless Cloak - 2:50
3. There's Always Room on the Broom - 3:05
4. If Your a Wizard Then Why Do You Wear Glasses? - 2:11
5. We Fenced Other Gardens with the Bones of Our Own - 5:27
6. They Don't Want Your Corn - They Want Your Kids - 2:39
7. Read the Book That Wrote Itself - 3:09
8. Hold Hands and It Will Happen Anyway - 4:51
9. They Took 14 for the Rest of Our Lives - 4:09
10. Flow My Tears the Spider Said - 6:08
The CD version also contains a video for There's Always Room on the Broom. Speaking of which, the single of the same name has an awesome cover, if you understand the reference.
Thanks to shaogo.
Track times from MusicBrainz
Mentioned interview is at Pitchfork.