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  The Liverhearts  
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The Liverhearts have been playing out in Atlanta for probably 6 years at this point. I know they've released a couple of EPs in the past few years, but during that same time period, the line up of the band has fluctuated wildly. Within the past few years, they have crystallized as a three piece, and it seems like they've finally hit their stride. And what I have really wanted to hear was a full-length. So, in the continuing saga of "bands from whom I want to hear recordings finally producing something in 2008", it shouldn't be too surprising that at long last, The Liverhearts have come out with a 11 track, self-released album called Ornament.

The Liverhearts are a difficult band to write about. I like their music and find it interesting and entertaining. Yet, how to describe them? PostLibyan says that they're post-punk; in the past, I've said they're post-math. But both of those terms are a mere short-hand, meant to invoke the driving, syncopated rhythm section of bassist Jason Beebe and drummer Matt Glagola and the trebly guitarwork and shouted vocals of guitarist/vocalist Matt Weaver. These characteristics show up in spades on Ornament.

As an example, the first track, Tan Sedan, begins with the thudding tom sounds of Glagola under a sharp guitar melody, over which Weaver sings/shouts briskly. Yet, in the middle of the tune, the songs breaks its stride with a nicely built interlude. Then, at the end the song speeds up and becomes louder as Weaver's vocals become more insistent before the sudden end. Likewise, the second song, title track Ornament, begins with a similar thudding rapid drum beat, enhanced by Beebe's low, dominating bass. Over this all, the guitar provide another sharp counterpoint that alternates with Weaver's almost Lydon-esque sneer. Taken as a whole, this tune has an almost threatening aspect, which is enhanced by the ending of the song, when the music becomes still tenser as the vocals and guitars become both louder and more intense.

After that one-two punch, the third song, Spray Paint Accuracy, feels somehow lighter, perhaps because the drums don't feel as dark and the melody sounds just a bit jangly. And, without the inherent syncopation of the earlier tunes, this one has a happy sort of bounce to it, probably due to the forcefully simple bass riff. This song has long been one of my live favorites by The Liverhearts, and it comes across exceedingly well on record. Likewise, Of Doctors and Daggers is another live tune that comes across better than I would have expected. Filled with soaring guitars over that same insistent driving rhythm that characterizes so much of The Liverhearts' work, the repeated vocal chants feel less foreboding. Similarly, the majority of the melody seems to be held by the dancing bass line that alternates against the afore-mentioned guitarwork. It's a densely textured tune that is surprisingly pretty underneath it all.

However, in the tradition of all good bands, the album isn't all like the songs above. In particular, Panicum Repens is like nothing I've ever heard The Liverhearts play before. This song is a rather gentle instrumental tune, with light cymbal brushes under delicate guitar/bass strums with what almost sounds like keyboard burbles n the background. It's so completely not like what you'd expect from The Liverhearts.

But, in the end, the highlights of Ornament are the tense post-punk tunes in which they specialize. For example, Hey Pilots has more open sonic space than The Liverhearts normally present. In this case, the space is more on the low end, with the bass suspiciously absent for a solid minute and the drums emphasizing the snare and cymbal instead of the thudding floor tom. Still, the song has the trebly guitarwork and once the bass comes in, it mirrors the melody, albeit in a lower register. In contrast Simple Machines reverts back to the quickly-paced angularity of Tan Sedans or Ornament. Likewise, penultimate track Do the Krier! displays a rhythmic syncopation which expresses the tense foreboding inherent of much of this band's music. Finally, the record ends with Terminus, which features mirrored-vocals over a somewhat meandering pace (for The Liverhearts, at least).

I have to say that upon reflection, I'm rather pleased with Ornament. The recording as a whole sounds really good, with each musical part clearly evident throughout the mix. The songs represent most of the songs I've heard The Liverhearts played throughout the years and present a coherent groups of tunes. And furthermore, although there are probably bands out there that sound like The Liverhearts, certainly I haven't come across one in the local Atlanta scene recently. With all that in mind, I'm glad to have this record finally in hand.

Related Links:

Liverhearts MySpace:
Liverhearts blog:
Also on EvilSponge:
   Concert: Fri.16.Jul.04
   Concert: Sat.28.Aug.04
   Concert: Thu.27.Jan.05
   Festival Appearance: Corndogorama 2005, Day 3
   Festival Performance: Corndog-o-rama 2006, Day 3
   Concert: Fri.21.Jul.06
   Concert: Sat.2.Feb.08
   Concert: Sat.19.Apr.08


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