Cassette, Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP
Vancouver post-punk trio lié describe themselves as “cold punk,” and sure, there have always been goth elements to their sound, like roiling basslines, chorused-out guitar, and cavernous vocals. On their first three albums, that iciness was a little bit stronger than it is on their latest, You Want It Real, which boils over with furious energy.
It’s not as if lié haven’t always been buoyed by anger and frustration; take the urgent “Broken,” for example, from their 2014 debut CONSENT, or “Better Sex,” the striking opener to 2018’s Hounds. And it’s not as if they were ever working from an exact template. But on You Want It Real, they consciously lean further away from direct lyrics and more standard song structures (guitarist/vocalist Ashlee Luk is part of minimalviolence and bassist/vocalist Brittany West plays in Sigsaly, and press materials note that electronic compositional influence is a part of lié’s new approach).
lié’s move toward abstraction could have diffused their power, but instead it enlivens them. Opener “Digging in the Desert” kicks up plenty of dust with its spindly guitar lines and rhythmic changes as sharp as an elbow to the ribs, and lyrics delivered with poisonous animosity (“You’re so righteous/ I’m not blameless/ I got an appetite”) land arrow-precise even if it’s not totally obvious what the target is. “Bugs,” which begins with frenetic guitar scribbling and nearly fractures into free jazz at points, feels like anxiety channeled into sound. “Fantasy of Destructive Force” is a visceral meditation on when violence wears a mask of faux-civility; the bass and percussion bubble with tension beneath sheets of dissonant guitar. A tight and interesting band from the beginning, lié feel like they’ve grown into themselves, sprawling out beyond their reference points to become a true force to be reckoned with.