Last week I interviewed Stan Ridgway of Wall of Voodoo, and something he said has been nagging at me: “The music that I always found to be most valuable to me when I was younger were songs that I didn’t really like at first.” I like his word choice: “valuable.”
What Ridgway said made me give the Liars another chance. The band first entered public consciousness as one of the leading lights of the much-hyped New York scene of 2001. The Liars had the cool sound of the time, dance-punk, and at the time singer Angus Andrew had the coolest girlfriend in the world, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. (Her sublime hit “Maps” was written about him.) But the Liars took a weird turn and started recording experimental music on concept albums about artistic doubt and historic witch-hunting. I wasn’t the only listener who was left completely mystified.
I’m glad I reconsidered. The self-titled album Liars released last fall is a return, if not to exactly dance-punk or even rock, at least to riffs and rhythms that are a little easier to understand. It’s not a retreat, though, because the music shows the influence of years of studio trickery and avant-garde ideas. It’s just that this time around, the Liars ditched the high concept in favor of high energy.
So thank you, Stan Ridgway. I think the Liars could be valuable to me if I keep listening. I don’t know if I’m ready to tackle that album about witch hunting again, but I’ll think about it.
LIARS, The Casbah, Thursday, February 21, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $14.