I was 8 the first time my uncle let me watch "Eddie Murphy Raw."
Later that same day I received my first mix tape when he secretly
gave me other Eddie Murphy comedy routines interspersed amidst
various Aerosmith songs. While the Toys in the Attic tracks
have lost their majestic sheen since my youth, "Buckwheat" and "Hit
by a Car" will never cease to be anything but ingenious. Due in part
to this tape, it was during this time in my life that I first learned
the pitfalls of attempting to "cover" another artist's material. Also
known as "The Thanksgiving of Infamy," my attempt to perform routines
just like my hero Eddie Murphy failed miserably from the point of
view of my aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers. I had
barely gotten through the second "n*gga, please!" before I was jerked
into the next room and severely spanked. I learned from that
experience two things: to avoid attempts to perform/cover what is
beyond your scope of understanding or ability, and also to be wary of
Oneida and Liars cannot be criticized for disobeying the latter of
the two cautionary lessons above. Their recent split EP, Atheists,
Reconsider, is one of those rare releases that leave
indie-hipsters gushing at the possibilities.
Neo-psychedelica/noise-rock artists Oneida could potentially have a
lot to offer the post-rock/experimental Liars, and vice versa,
especially with the added enticement/promise that the artists cover
one song each from the other's catalogue.
The first song of this collaboration leaves the pledge, for the most
part, fulfilled, as a fast beat and a harpsichord drone signal The
Liars' interpretation of "Rose and Licorice," off of Oneida's
Anthem of the Moon. This is a completely different musical
setting for the band, as they channel a '60s-era pop tune through a
mid-'90s "alternative" sound (think ... And You Will Know Us by the
Trail of Dead vocals with the recording fidelity found on the first
Television Personalities album), culminating ultimately in more
familiar territory for the group, a noise orgy of ascending airplanes
with a fading wall of feedback.
"All in All a Careful Party," the second song offered by The Liars on
the disc, unfortunately pales in comparison to their material from
prior albums and EPs. It seems like a failed remake of "I Hate Stupid
Phones," off the We No Longer Knew Who We Were EP, with the
vocals buried even deeper beneath a neutered drum line. The song is
nearly bereft of the interesting and danceable bottom-heavy bass
found on their first album; it's replaced instead with what sounds
like children's instruments, making the song nearly unrecognizable as
a Liars track.
The Liars's final contribution is the noise conglomeration "Dorothy
Taps the Toe of the Tinman," a seven-minute-plus opus that will
probably be remembered as their best song when, 30 years from now,
they are hailed as geniuses by The Wire. Regardless of their
avant-garde credibility, this song still sounds to me like something
any person with a spoon and two pots could create if they had the
radio turned up really loud in the foreground.
Luckily, there is a flip side to The Liars' offering, in the three
Oneida songs to be had on the EP. Their choice of cover is The Liars'
live staple "Every Day Is a Child With Teeth." The song is
recognizable but keeps the distinct sound of the band, with the ebb
and flow of electronic fluctuations punctuating what could
potentially be a monotonous beat if it wasn't for the chanted chorus,
fuzzy intermittent guitar, and greatly distorted harpsichord drone
that concludes with a near-industrial din.
The cover differs greatly from Oneida's own "Privilege," which
undoubtedly packs the most noise into the shortest song. A
hyperactive drone that utilizes feedback to its fullest extent, the
track is the closest either group comes to making good on the title
of the album. Played at the proper volume, the incessant rhythm will
place its hand to your forehead and beg for the "demons to be
exorcised," making good on this threat with an anthemic coda of sheer
Of course, if that isn't enough to satiate your craving for sonic
miasma, you can look toward to "Fantastic Morgue," which may just be
the strongest song on the EP. It's good to know that brilliant gems
of hard and fast "rawk" are continuing to be produced without dulling
the shine of innovators come and gone. This track is, in the end, the
catchiest tune on the disc, being one of those songs that creep up on
you while at work, in the kitchen, or even in the john.
There is no doubt that if you are already a fan of either band that
this will wind up in your collection, but if you are new to either,
especially The Liars, my suggestion is to start elsewhere. Both
groups show better judgment within the confines of their own
creations. If only someone had given me the same advice I might still
have my copy of "Eddie Murphy: Comedian" and I wouldn't carry a
familial stigma during the holiday season.