Home Read Classic Album Review: Liars | They Were Wrong, So We Drowned

Classic Album Review: Liars | They Were Wrong, So We Drowned

The Brooklyn phenoms' sophomore album makes Beeheart sound like Beyonce.

This came out in 2004 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


I have read reviews that proclaimed this CD a masterpiece. I have also read reviews that pronounced it unlistenable. And I can see where both sides are coming from.

They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, the sophomore album from Brooklyn phenoms Liars, is a long way from the spazzy, angular post-punk of their revered 2001 debut They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top. Part of the change is personnel-oriented — the band’s original rhythm section is gone, replaced by a primal percussionist. Part is thematic — They Were Wrong… is a twisted concept album about witchcraft, legend, sorcery and fear. But the biggest change by far is attitudinal — on these 10 cuts, Liars seem to be intent on unlearning everything they know about songcraft and production and starting over from scratch.

Which means that what you end up with here aren’t songs so much as transcriptions of sonic experiments. Beats and grooves stutter and thump along, stopping and starting abruptly and unpredictably. Guitar and synth lines are dischordant, distorted and noisy, melodies are starkly minimal and arrangements seem to be concoted on the spot. Traditional verses and choruses are few and far between — unless you consider someone chanting “Blood! Blood! Blood!” to be a catchy hook. And the whole thing sounds like it could have been recorded on a boombox from the next room.

But even though, musically and technically, it makes Captain Beefheart sound like Beyoncé, there’s something undeniably captivating — dare I say, even bewitching — about the art-damaged freakout environs of songs like There’s Always Room On The Broom, They Don’t Want Your Corn — They Want Your Kids and (my fave title of the week) If You’re A Wizard Then Why Do You Wear Glasses?

Sure, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is disorienting, challenging, murky, demanding and downright unpleasant at times. But it’s also brave, uncompromising, iconoclastic and utterly unique. Whether that means it’s a work of genius or a piece of garbage is beyond me. But I know that any CD this distinctive, difficult and divisive deserves to be heard. As often as you can stand it.