Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
"Take my pants off, use my socks, smell my socks, eat my face off," a pitch-shifted voice commands in the opening moments of Liars' seventh LP. Two years after the post-punk group detoured into highly textured, cerebral electronic music on WIXIW, the S&M imperatives seem to indicate that the trio is in the mood to party.
For that record, Liars worked with Mute boss Daniel Miller, but self-produced Mess directly evokes the synth-pop for which the label is best known, particularly its opening volley of bombastic electro numbers. The album feels less ponderous and more balls-out than its predecessor, but the band hasn't stitched up its maniacal tendencies into commercial pop either.
The friskiness gradually dissipates as the pace slows and frontman Angus Andrew's voice melts into abstract soundscapes of burbling, glitchy noise on the latter half, before the energy disperses entirely on the serene Left Speaker Blown. This comedown conceit gives Mess a direction in lieu of a concept or emotional core but doesn't quite disguise the album's aimlessness and retreat into familiar terrain.
Top track: Left Speaker Blown