Even as they crafted one of this decade’s best albums, experimental trio Liars hinted at their next big move. “Brats”—the penultimate track on 2012’s otherwise chill-electronic WIXIW—positively raved, suggesting that a band famous for avant concepts and noisy explorations might sneak under the velvet rope and onto the dancefloor.
The first half of double-length seventh album Mess fulfills that strange promise. Five early tracks—“Mask Maker,” “Vox Turned D.E.D.,” “I’m No Gold,” “Pro Anti Anti” and “Mess on a Mission”—pound with rhythmic intensity, demanding more than an earphoned head bop. Will kandi kids come running? Doubtful, since Angus Andrew’s vocals remain a freakish acquired taste, to say nothing of his lyrics (“Take my pants off/Use my socks/Smell my socks/Eat my face off/Take my face/Give me your face”). And then there’s Mess’ second half, when Liars go David Bowie Low on their listeners, mostly ditching full-on hooks for glitchy atmospherics—and maybe pointing to the next stop on their unpredictable journey.