Angus Andrew has always been the most recognizable face in NYC-bred noise-rock unit Liars, which should serve him well, as he's now the band's only face. After 2014's Mess, long-time member Julian Gross departed, eventually followed by co-founder Aaron Hemphill just after the album's cycle ended. Now that Liars is a full-fledged solo project, Andrew has free rein.
In searching for the right location to begin recording, Andrew returned home to Australia, but forwent Sydney for the barren terrain of the bush. As the album's cheeky cover photo suggests, this album both celebrates and laments Andrew's newfound isolation. However, there is no mistaking eighth album TFCF as anything but the work of Liars.
The first notes on opener "The Grand Delusional" are of Andrew plucking an acoustic guitar, an instrument that quickly becomes TFCF's unlikely hero. As he's mentioned to the press, such a conventional instrument provided him one of his greatest challenges yet. But Liars tend to avoid such trappings, and any concern that Andrews has now made this an outlet for earnest balladeering is quickly quashed with the successive "Cliché Suite," which sounds like medieval entrance music for a king.
You can hear the wilderness surround him on "Face to Face with My Face," which makes the most of the outback's found sounds with samples of birds and insects, along with a didgeridoo. And both single "Cred Woes" and "No Tree No Branch" offer moments of lucid pop brilliance, complementing penetrating hooks with commanding rhythms — especially the former, which has an arena rock stomp as powerful as ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down."
Andrew does reveal a moment of sorrow near the end. Penultimate track "Ripe Ripe Rot" reads like a farewell to his former partner — be it Hemphill or another — with the lyric, "It's time again to explode your heart / Yeah it's time again to let go" swathed in sombre, warm drones that convey a rare, poignant moment.
Listening to Liars has always been about expecting the unexpected. Despite the band's downsizing, TFCF demonstrates that Andrew has always been the beating heart of Liars. This time, the unexpected was hearing him bare his without any uncertainty. (Mute)