MAY ALBUM OF THE MONTH – ‘AMONGST LIARS’
Gravity defying. The self-managed band from the sleepy south coast town that is re-writing the rock’n’roll play book for a new age. As the sunrise of modern rock supersedes the slow sunset of the classic era, here is a band writing some of the most strikingly relevant and urgent guitar music for a troubled age. A band that has focused on musical craft over social media attention-seeking during lockdown – and a band that is about to unleash one of the benchmark albums of 2022. This is Amongst Liars. And this is game-changing stuff.
As a band, Amongst Liars is well known to Great Music Stories and the Friday rockshow listeners. Three-times voted ‘Band of the Month’, four-times ‘Single of the Month’ (with ‘Black Days’) and a five-figure vote crowning them ‘Band of the Year’ in December 2021. Without question, natural momentum is with this fine band. It lives beyond fan clubs, tribes and Facebook groups. It spans age groups, music tastes and geographies.
We picked up on the band’s story in the final months of the Saint Apache era – the Rock Micra and Cat Cafe conversations becoming staple sagas of the Friday show. When I gave the Amongst Liars debut single ‘Over and Over’ a first spin, I had a sense something exciting was on the cards – and the string of fine singles that followed underlined the band’s credentials as an exciting, creative force – with bravery, integrity and consistency in spades.
Lockdown came at the wrong time for this new band. Amongst Liars had barely played a gig when Covid struck. But what they did was resolute and immediate – to focus on the craft and the art of good song-writing. Whilst many acts focused on staying popular on social media, Amongst Liars focused on the song writing. They found ways to create together, they pushed themselves. The steady flow of quality output won them followers by the week, and I watched as these followers evolved from fans into committed band advocates. As lockdown eased, the band had grown and matured. Their head-turning performance at LoveRocks showed they were ready to take on the world and their headline run with Reach 360 Promotions underscored their ambition. Now with the arrival of this impressive debut album, the band takes things to a whole new level.
The release of this debut album does two things emphatically. First, it establishes Amongst Liars as a new, trend-setting force in music and, second, it underlines that the future of rock will be carried forward by those new acts that invent for today’s world, rather than re-cycle templates from a past era.
Before going into the music, a word on the art work. In an age when the allure of physical music is receding in a tech world based on instant consumption, Amongst Liars re-establish the importance of compelling artwork in presenting their music. All their singles have worked to a striking and thoughtful artistic theme, something that continues with this album. It’s a statement about caring, about the inter-woven relationship between the sounds and visuals – and the artwork helps make the album more of an event, rather than just another bundle of songs to be added to a playlist.
Now on to the songs. The recent single ‘Cut It’ opens the album with a signature dose of in-your-face social relevance from the band. The underlying narrative on calling out abuse in all its forms is captured by the intensity of the music, the vocal attack and the lingering lyrical strength – which, together, evoke a sense of urgency, drama and anger. A song that has many of the now-familiar hallmarks of Amongst Liars singles of recent years.
‘Reign’ offers a different side to what we’ve seen on many of the early singles – there’s great power, yet also measured control on the verses. Not just angry and intense, this song is more panoramic and patient in its build. A really strong narrative that is empowering in its essence. A great example of Amongst Liars making a nonsense of genre labels. This could be rock, it could be indie – it actually doesn’t matter what it is. In a rock world where ‘banger’ is too often the defining word used to describe a good song, ‘Reign’ reminds us it’s not even about how heavy a song is – it’s about how good a song is. Always has been.
‘Reign’ is a strong song that stands on its own two feet; it’s well constructed and arranged – and it has all the ingredients to become a perfect festival anthem.
Next up – ‘Money’ is one of the new songs that showcases a new treatment for Ian’s vocals. Here, the interplay between the soft and angry raw vocals – twin personalities if you like – add artistically to the impact of the song; one that challenges the narcissistic and money-grabbing tendencies of political and business leaders. There’s a direct sense of protest, the choruses aren’t just loud, they capture a sense of how the song should make you feel.
A song that reminds me a little of early Virginmarys. Is it rock? It’s certainly not classic rock. We have here the definition of modern rock: Music about the now, art as a form of protest and questioning (as art should); music that tackles today’s issues and makes you think. This is rock music looking forward not reaching backward, it’s the kind of music we need if rock is to earn the appeal of new, younger audiences.
‘Burn The Vision’ is one of a number of early singles to make the album, and this is good news because the run of lockdown singles did so much to help the band evolve its stature and appeal to new fans.
With us, ‘Burn The Vision’ has been a rockshow favourite for a long time, a song that was a calling card on what was coming from the band – and a marker in the ground on what makes this band different and so utterly compelling. Like ‘Black Days’, ‘Burn The Vision’ displays the band’s skill at building a song, taking it down and then exploding it with dramatic crescendo towards the end. And even after years of heavy air play on Friday nights, ‘Burn The Vision’ still stands tall with this album collection. Proof enough that great songs don’t have a sell-by date.
‘All Over Now’ is a real musical cocktail. Dare I say, a hint of pop; add in a helping of rock, a twist of U2 guitar loops and some punk infusion and we have a fun, dramatic cocktail. A song for Radio 6 or Radio X – popular, catchy and starkly relevant for those that want involving guitar music with some serious substance.
Next up, we have a WOW-moment for the album. ‘Drown’ is, without doubt, one of the album stand-outs, offering wonderful contrast between light and shade. Melodic, reflective choruses on loss, offset by powerful choruses with emotive guitar riffs. One to play loud with the lights down, a song that draws more comparisons with something like Elbow than many of the young classic rock bands viewed to be the Liars’ peer group. A real stand-out from the album, my only quibble would be it appears too late on the album.
With track listing in mind, I probably would have opened the album with ‘Black Days’ – it feels a bit buried as track seven. Saying this, I have obvious bias here, for a song that has dominated my rockshow playlist for two years of Covid broadcasting. A song that – like CovAid2020’s ‘Desolate Days’ – captured how it felt to live through dark days. It remains the best of the protest songs on this fine album and, for me, it still stands as the band’s benchmark single. Not because it is necessarily the band’s ‘best’ song but, for a time and place, it resonated perfectly with what so many people felt – and the mood of the music articulates the feelings we sometimes can’t express ourselves in words.
I was delighted that ‘Over And Over’ made the album. We premiered this debut single from the band a while back and many fans still have huge nostalgic fondness for this song. Perhaps over-looked by many rock media at the time, this song is where the band’s story started and it needs a place on this album. It’s been slightly re-worked with some engineering ‘bouffant sprinkles’ for the album – but it maintains the heartbeat of the original, which is a classic.
‘Slave to Right’ delivers a call-to-action on climate change that is relentless in its power – a song to get hot and sweaty to down the front at a gig.
‘Tick The Box’ didn’t quite do it for me. With a rhythm similar to ‘Over And Over,’ this song feels like ‘variations on a theme’ from singles already known. I would have swapped this one out of the album, and put in ‘Crucify’, ‘Mind’ or ‘Wolf Machine’ – all of which I think are more interesting songs and may have offered a bit more bandwidth for the tail-end of the album.
All that said, Amongst Liars do save the best til last. ‘Without Grace’ is my pick of the album. Having issued a run of fine singles, here we have Amongst Liars cooking up a truly involved opus track – one of those deeper, longer tracks that makes an album so much more than just a collection of singles.
The song opens with immediate impact and the anti-war messages make you think of the humanitarian crisis unfolding today in Ukraine. This song offers something more experimental and different to the discipline of the radio singles we have come to know. This is music that paints pictures in the mind – and the strength here isn’t just the lyrics, but the marriage of words and music that creates the mood. Very strong.
‘Without Grace’ – along with ‘Drown’ – evidences Amongst Liars going up a few gears on the singles they’ve put out thus far. The guitar is work excellent – powerful, haunting and richly expressive. For the early singles the band did angry well, but here the mood palette is far more sophisticated. A mark of the band’s creative evolution. ‘Without Grace’ is the best song on the album and a fitting closer.
Over the years, we (with our listeners) have a bit of a track record at calling bands early with our annual Band of the Year votes. Wagons, Crows and Scarlet Rebels are examples of former Bands of the Year that, two years later, each blew up across national rock media. And so with Amongst Liars, Band of the Year in 2021. Once again, a few eyebrows arched as we announced them as Band of the Year last November. But for all the fans that followed the band’s story during the pandemic, it was as clear as day that something special was brewing. This debut album marks out how special this band is. In a rock scene today where nostalgia is often confused for new, here we have a band that’s putting a marker down for the future, for modern rock. It’s music firmly rooted in – and about – today’s world. Music that will both challenge and inspire you, as art should. It’s music that gives rock n roll a future for a new generation of fans. Amongst Liars are on the rise. They are flag-carriers for a new modern rock era – and they may well be releasing the milestone rock album that invites us to let go of the past and to celebrate what the future of rock could be – and what is now possible.
The debut Album ‘Amongst Liars’ is released on 8 July 2022
Pre-order bundle details and social links from the band’s site https://www.amongstliars.com
Album track listing:
- Cut It
- Burn The Vision
- All Over Now
- Black Days
- Over And Over
- Slave To Right
- Tick The Box
- Without Grace
More on Great Music Stories
2021 ‘Band of the Year’ write up: https://greatmusicstories.com/2021-winners/
2020 ‘South East Rocks’ winners write up: https://greatmusicstories.com/2020-winners/
The winners interview: https://greatmusicstories.com/2021/11/30/feature-amongst-liars-band-of-the-year-the-winners-interview/