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Liar, Liar by Wheels on Fire
Here is evidence that exciting rock ‘n’ roll can not only come from the most unlikely of places (Athens, Ohio), but also be recorded in this century (2010 to be exact). Perhaps it was the humdrum and indeterminate band name that prevented this group from ever crossing my radar. The four-piece not only had the Memphis sound down, but they accomplished it without a bass player, and on Liar, Liar they successfully expand their sound out to the ‘70s melodic pop ‘n’ roll regions of the Real Kids and the Beat. With its prominent whirling keyboards, soulful vocal delivery and pop sensibilities, it was this third and final album on Germany’s Alien Snatch Records that proved to be the charm. On “Bad Lie,” they burst out of the gate, quickly work up a storm and fire on all cylinders. The little vocal inflections at the end of “Sarah” and interspersed throughout “Looking at You” initially threw me for a loop as I could not quite place where I heard them before, then I recalled they were probably inspired by a David Byrne or David Johansen scat. The incendiary “Losin’” is testimony that they were well attuned to a long-gone past that allowed them to skirt the transient hipster trappings of their time, while successfully bringing in street-level characters like “Long Tall Sally” into the darkened alleys of the 21st century. The surging & shuffling minimalism of the Subsonics informs “Ambulance” which arrives on the scene "where the people were dancin’ in street/where the music never sounded so sweet.” The party rages on with “Looking At You” before heading back to the Reigning Sound of “Stick Around” - unadulterated, straightforward and brimming as tomorrow morning’s black chicory coffee. “Chasin’ UFOs” has them exploring the murky smear of night through the brambles with keyboards that reach a boil like a bubbling cauldron. Lastly, “I Wanna Know” unspools with the radio “ahn” somewhere between “Heart” by the Remains and Modern Lovers' “Roadrunner." Bucking the trends, they understood what they were good at and they worked feverishly within that framework. This rudimentary intuition is at the essence of rock ‘n’ roll and allowed the soulful quartet to connect the sound and spark of the past to the chain reaction of the present. - Ted (Downtown)
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