Liars' first album They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top was about as direct as they come. The nine track album blasted you back and left just as quickly, kicking out the jams in under thirty minutes before letting a four-second loop run for another twenty, leaving the listener wondering what the hell was going on long after they'd already left the building. Following that album, the group went through a lineup change, and the following They Were Wrong So We Drowned was a bit more inconsistent, sounding like the work of a group who hadn't quite figured out which direction they wanted to go in.
Drum's Not Dead is the newest work from the trio and despite some tracks that take immediate hold, it's another album that takes a little bit of simmering to really sink in. It's easily the most varied release from the group, mixing everything from slow-burn atmospherics to tribal, krauty pounding into a single, flowing album that ebbs and flows like nothing they've ever done before. After the stewing "Be Quiet Mt. Heart Attack!" (which seems like it's on the verge of exploding, but never does), the release takes off with the pummeling "Let's Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack," where hyper-repetitive drums pound away under ringing, metallic drones and howling vocals.
After a slight cool-down piece, the album goes through what is probably my favorite section, mainly because the songs are a bit more subtle. "Drum Gets A Glimpse" mixes shimmering, quiet guitars with some lovely soft percussive work and lamenting vocals while "It Fit When I Was A Kid" is a dark and playful romp that mixes creepy but evocative vocals with a throbbing bass and sparse but effective chimes. From there, the album is just as varied, moving through everything from gurgling bubbles of electronic ("It's All Blooming Now Mt. Heart Attack") to meandering slow-burns ("The Wrong Coat For You Mt. Heart Attack") and a short track that feels more like a toss-off than anything fully-developed ("You, Drum").
"Drum And The Uncomfortable Can" is the song closest to their oldest work, and it mixes the tribal drumming and chanted vocals of They Were Wrong So We Drowned with the hazy, squalling feedback that the new album employs so much. Interestingly enough, the most surprising (and one of the best) tracks on the entire album is the closer of "The Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack," which shows off a delicate side of the group that I didn't know existed.
Rounding out the release for the group is a DVD with a whopping three different sets of videos for each song on the album. The work on the DVD is varied, including everything from claymation to live and studio footage of the band and one that follows a snail (which will either have you turning the DVD off quickly or settling in for the oddly hypnotic journey). I've spent quite a bit of time now with Drum's Not Dead, and oddly enough the tracks I come back to the most are the quieter ones for the most part. A bit of the album still seems to keep me at an arms length, and while I don't enjoy it quite as much as some who have already written about it, it's an interesting new release from a group who refuses to sit still.