As they’ve done previously with Berlin and Salem, Liars drew inspiration from a specific location for Sisterworld, cocking a wary eye at Los Angeles—though it’s hardly the L.A. Randy Newman would recognize. This is a place of profound alienation, a pothole-cracked parallel City Of So-Called Angels where the fringe elements lurk in the shadow of Hollywood glitz. Like most Liars albums since the group’s disco-punk false start, that fringe is certifiably lunatic: Here, Liars’ usual creeping unease turns seductive—the increasingly rational voice of the inner psychopath, Charlie Manson whispering in your ear.
And yet Sisterworld also ranks among Liars’ poppiest. It compacts the band’s ambient sprawl and mantra-like rhythms into recognizable song structures, even rocking the fuck out. Nick Cave’s bats-in-the-belfry brooding (followed by rabid biting) is an obvious touchstone, particularly on the opener “Scissor,” where singer Angus Andrew spills murderous confessions over ominous choral voices before exploding into caustic punk frenzy. L.A.’s latent violence resurfaces in “Scarecrows On A Killer Slant” (inspired by a murder Andrew witnessed), flinging venom at those who’d rather kill bums than talk to them, while “The Overachievers” throws a sarcastic dance party for privileged surfer dudes. Each diatribe is counteracted by calmer moments—over Chinese water-torture piano in “Drip”; over shimmering dream-pop guitar in “I Still Can See An Outside World”—but Andrew’s deliberately off-key harmonies maintain that pervasive paranoia. “In your bloodstream I am growing,” he insists. But Sisterworld makes delirium more than just contagious—it’s downright catchy.