Tenebrous Liar - End Of The Road
Steve Gullick. Regardless of whether you think that name tugs at any particular echelon of your psyche, it's there. Picture a black-and-white sweat-drenched Eddie Vedder up on stage, Kurt Cobain slouching with a guitar in his lap, Damon Albarn and co. strolling through backstage; Steve Gullick is one the most renown alternative-music photographers of the last twenty-odd years, and the artistic force behindTenebrous Liar.
Steve was born in Coventry, and has happily danced between art-forms since his earlier years, insisting that "the two are linked," citing that the bulk of his songwriting takes place in the depths of his deep depression between photo shoots. Formed in 2005, Tenebrous Liar have been prolific and decisive in their relatively short history; writing, recording and releasing six albums to date, with End Of The Road being number seven – the piece I'll be looking at.
After your first array of listens to End Of The Road something becomes apparent. Whilst Cloud Nothings' have released Attack On Memory and Metz have released their self-titled album - Tenebrous Liar are vulnerable to stylistic ambiguity in this country. They don't sound British, which plunges them into a knotty place; a cultural observation as opposed to a musical one, I apologise.
The record begins with an instrumental, fast-paced punk track named 'Bomberhead'. There's a commitment to conventional production here which rounds off some rougher edges – specifically, the drums aren't sonically competitive with anything melodic components. 'Burn On A Sunday' is of a similar ilk, but Gullick's vocals are introduced. His raucous timbre and characteristic performances are a highlight throughout, especially in the later moments of the End Of The Road where his lyrical dialogue becomes more dynamic.
'End Of The Road' and 'Get Back' are interesting numbers, similar to one another. The title track is exceptional. Gullick performs not too dissimilar to Gareth Liddiard on Gala Mill; stumbling off of the beat religiously, insinuating melodies and interacting with his guitar. I wish the production was as interesting as it is here throughout the record. 'Expired' works as a repellent for the sombre mood established, displaying what's comes comfortably on the record. Prominent guitars, disguised vocals, and drums which hold a little haziness at their behest.
"All of our days, we're crippled with life / All of my life, is riddled with guilt." – "Slow down, you're gonna burn." 'Pieces For You' is a vehicle in which Gullick can convey his distaste for the human condition with. Instrumentally, lyrically, and rhythmically, it's simple. But for all the incessant releases in tension with the jauntier tracks on End Of The Road, Tenebrous Liar's songwriting just seems to benefit from this aesthetic. 'Run Run Run' is the track where the band excels: arpeggiated guitar chords juxtapose staccato stabs whilst the unpredictable bass guitar pits itself wonderfully against straight, aggressive drumming.
All nine minutes of album-finisher 'Sleep' take a similar shape to the record itself. Beauty and subtlety are established, but only so Tenebrous Liar can proceed to beat the shit out of it. Two and a half minutes of Gullick singing a lullaby is answered with seven of sludge. The track is written to embody a nightmare, or maybe just somebody who has difficulty with the cold of the night.
End Of The Road has some aphotic, distressing moments which are thematically interesting. I love the performance and commitment to portraying bitter solitude. However, I'd say equally that these primed and prised moments expose a weakness in the more straight-forward tracks on the record, which, lack that shrewd and frank strength that tracks like 'End Of The Road' and 'Run Run Run' boast. Tenebrous Liar obviously place faith in the power that these instrumentally-driven tracks possess, but they just haven't translated onto the record very well – I'd point toward production. I wish there were more moments like the guitar solo on 'Get Back' which feels like you've had a boot-heel in the jaw.