According to Liars, Sisterworld -- the fifth studio album from the post-punk three piece -- is about the "fringe characters lured to Los Angeles and the resulting subcultures and the alternate spaces that they generate." Exactly what "alternate spaces" means is left to the listener to decide.
Lead track "Scissor" opens the album with a mournful moan, Waits-like preacher voice speaking atop gentle strings at a wake that, halfway through, turns suddenly into awake and undead, savage guitars and percussion twice reminding you that you will not go gentle into any good night, ever. By comparison, "No Barrier Fun" is downright sedate, a slow, Beck-like bass riff and mumble plodding straight along and carrying the dead along into the church, past the steeple, and into "Here Comes All The People," its Nightmare Before Christmas spooky vibe again reminding you that nothing is as it seems. "Drip" continues with the brooding, low drums and piano beneath gloomy singsong building slowly, inexorably like madness beneath the straitjacket which erupts into the blistering "Scarecrows On A Killer Slant," a back-and-forth accusatory jam.
Though short at about 42 minutes long, the album is thick and dense enough to have "two sides," and the flipside of the tain starts -- right on cue -- exactly halfway through track 6, "I Still Can See An Outside World," where off-kilter singsong suddenly morphs into its own Mr. Hyde, full of snarling, distorted guitar. "Proud Evolution" picks up the evolutionary theme, warning that "you should be careful" as it itself evolves throughout, a simple, lazy bassline growing more and more urgent and upbeat. The chaotic, discordant "Drop Dead" provides another moment of comparatively sedate contemplation before "The Overachievers" starts up with a Ministry-met-the-Ramones-in-a-graveyard churn, fuzzy guitar and adrenaline-charged drumming not giving any ground.
Keeping with the slow-fast-slow pace of the album, "Goodnight Everything" plods along but -- as the title suggests -- also grinds itself into oblivion, a black parade marching past the window, quiet then loud then quieter still and gone. And then there is nothing left but "Too Much, Too Much," a shoegazey bit of abstraction without percussion, drifting back and forth, wraithlike, through the ethereal plane between here and there, between our world and the Sisterworld.
For me, the notion of "alternate spaces" clearly conjures up notions of "otherworlds" like those featured in films like The Matrix, games like Unknown Armies or Don't Rest Your Head, or even classic literature like Alice in Wonderland, dark and dangerous worlds that are at once within and without. And like Alice's own trips down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass, Sisterworld is a head-spinning journey through seeming randomness, tied together by a dark undertow that snags the listener and drags them down, begging for more.
Favorite Track: "Proud Evolution"