Great first lines from novels become immortalised. The opening to Liars’ seventh album deserves a similar fate.
“Take my pants off!” growls a deeply distorted robot-voice, not unlike Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey, over a throbbing techno-pulse. It goes on to offer a series of similarly brusque commands: “Use my socks! Smell my socks! Eat my face off!” It’s unclear if we are being seduced or threatened.
Such ambiguity is par for the course for New York mavericks Liars, who have always been art-punks with the weight very much on the first syllable. Their last album, 2012’s WIXIW, found them eschewing their trademark noise-pop for Radiohead / Atoms For Peace-style hypnotic electronica.
Mess is something else again, being a full-on dance record, but laden, as ever, with ambivalence and menace. The subterranean, gothic rumble of Vox Tuned D.E.D. lands equidistant between Gary Numan and the industrial pop of 80s icons like DAF and Front 242: the thundering Pro Anti Anti is a club banger for people who hate clubs, and bangers, and people.
It’s propulsive, patchy, perplexing and, as ever with Liars, it raises more questions than it answers. This may be a Mess but it’s a glorious one.