It was thanks to on-the-ball Drowned In Sound that I first heard that Liars were to play a low-key gig for White Heat @ Madame Jojo’s (a 250-capacity London institution in the heart of Soho). The thought of seeing this amazing band (“Drum’s Not Dead” was one of my favourite albums of last year) up close & personal in a tiny venue sent a jolted thrill through my body and tickets were hurriedly procured.

Anticipation is running high when Liars take to the stage (drummer Julian Gross is in a fetching blue sparkly jumpsuit, and has to make an ungainly clamber over his kit to get behind it – no space on the cramped Madame Jojo’s stage). They have a friend in tow on guitar/bass, and proceed to start up an unholy drone before Angus Andrew slow-motion slopes onto stage and launches into “Be Quiet Mt. Heart Attack”.

Liars live @ Madame Jojo’s (03-07-2007)

Seeing Liars live has brought home the realisation that drum is truly at the heart of their music. Julian Gross’s tribal beats power everything, providing the skeleton (sometimes fed through various effects) over which the guitar & bass noisedrone and Angus’s falsetto are draped. For much of the performance, guitarist Aaron Hemphill plays a half-kit, meshing with Gross’s playing and bringing to mind both the double-drum assault of early Swans and the primevality & precision of a taiko troupe. The sound is not great (partly the venue’s inadequacies, partly my positioning with head in front of bass amp), leaving Angus’s vocals indistinct, but the guitar / bass onslaught is satisfyingly physical as are the polyrhythmic beats. Second song “We Fenced Other Houses With The Bones Of Our Own” is awesome, the sound of early Einstürzende Neubauten presiding over a black mass, the mantra of “take your cauldron and get down” exhorting the witches & warlocks to free their asses and give in to the power of Drum. Next there’s “A Visit From Drum”, Angus now slung with guitar while Julian and Aaron forge a stark percussive primitivism, again evoking a creepy ritual visible only in flickering firelight.

Liars live @ Madame Jojo’s (03-07-2007)

“Freakout” is the first of the new songs that they play tonight, and it unfortunately doesn’t impress – sounding messy and unrehearsed (the gangly Angus even falls off the confined stage), but also likely suffering from the poor sound. The eponymous new album has been touted as being more ‘accessible’ than their earlier work, but that isn’t evident from this and the other new songs they play – “Pure Unevil” (which features Hemphill on vocals & guitar and Angus taking on bass duties) and a medley of “Cycle Time” and “Plaster Casts of Everything”. Inbetween though is the awesome “Drum And The Uncomfortable Can” with its dense percussion and tsunamis of guitar noise. And while instruments are swapped between songs, drummer Gross fills the silence with snatches of rhythms from “Drum’s Not Dead”.
They end with “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack”, a full-on double-drum double-guitar offensive.

Liars live @ Madame Jojo’s (03-07-2007)

When they return at the behest of the baying crowd it is just the original trio, who end the evening with the industrial beeps and rickity percussive clatter of “Brocken Witch”, with its Equus-like lyrics of horses and blood. “We are the army you see through the red haze of blood! blood! blood!”

Setlist: Liars @ White Heat, Madame Jojo’s (03 July 2007)
Be Quiet Mt. Heart Attack!
We Fenced Other Gardens With The Bones of Our Own
A Visit From Drum
Drum And The Uncomfortable Can
Pure Unevil
Medley: Cycle Time & Plaster Casts of Everything
Lets Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack!
Brocken Witch

Liars live @ Madame Jojo’s (03-07-2007)

Here is the creepy, tribal “Broom” from the “There’s Always Room On The Broom” EP, which reappeared as “A Visit From Drum” on “Drum’s Not Dead“.

Liars – Broom

Liars releases can be purchased directly from Mute.
Check out some more photos on Flickr courtesy of DG Jones, and here from Simon Leak.