Thursday, July 01, 2021

Damn Good Liars Serve Some Home Truths On Their Debut EP

It is true that some film students – myself included – do sometimes subscribe to the doctrine that neon-lit neo-noirs are always artistic. Being students, people could assume that we go to the middle aisle in an Aldi and buy a ‘How to be a Media Student Starter Pack’, complete with a Serge Gainsbourg CD for good measure. I often fantasise about being the damaged, chain-smoking PI in a pulp, pop art thriller with a gramophone in the corner, playing Marlene Dietrich.

So when I hear anything that indulges my Lynch-ian daydreams, it’s hard not to feel indulged. Damn Good Liars debut EP allows me visions of neon streets reflected in the pothole puddles on the road. Add in song titles such as ‘Station Wagon Motel Chic’ and ‘Tobacco Lips’ and it’s fair to say, I’m already writing the screenplay. 

The reason I’ve explained this early on is something of a declaration of interests, but before anyone notices what I’ve written as a backhanded compliment to the band, allow me to run around the ball like Rafael Nadal and serve up a true dedication to this debut EP. 


Damn Good Liars are a British trio consisting of producers Steve Jenner and Ian Turner combined with the vocals of Ellis Turner.  The whole EP was recorded during the pandemic of the last year – with both Steve & Ian recording in a studio in Berkshire with Ellis recording her vocals in her home in Somerset. This southern England, East(ish) and West divide is rather fitting when the music they have created would fit perfectly in a late 70s period film behind the Iron Curtain.


The final track ‘Tobacco Lips’ most aptly suits this aesthetic. Distorted bass, 808 fills and guitars that sound like the screeching Audi’s of the Stasi in the background, the whole thing has the Café Moskau written all over it. The dark synth led grooves are a call back to Scary Monsters-era Bowie, but lyrically the EP feels much more present.


The trio’s debut single release ‘Station Wagon Motel Chic’ opens the EP and is followed by ‘I’m Not A Psychopath’, both tracks lyrically are products of the pandemic. With vocals reminiscent of Meg Remy of US Girls fame, Ellis Turner laments the isolation of the past year with apocalyptic imagery in the opener -“Just a shell, what’s left here?/Just a shell of solid fear” - before promising to “raise some hell” in the climax. 


The album’s highlight is ‘I’m Not A Psychopath’ where Ellis takes more specific aim over a beautifully eerie, ambient soundscape. It plays out like a claustrophobic, expressionist nightmare of Fritz Lang proportions with Tarkovsky’s eye for beauty in tragedy. In the opening verse, she sings “I’m not insensitive just don’t care anymore’ before going onto lament isolation, it’s a maddening fever dream. The middle 8 breaks into a drum fill like a surreal Soviet-style military parade. The whole thing is eerie ambience at its finest.


The third track, ‘Unworthy’ on the other hand is a subdued power ballad, if there is such a thing. And if there wasn’t, Damn Good Liars just invented and perfected it at the same time. The recipe; take some heartfelt angst from noughties emo and the resounding build up straight from a nineties disaster movie theme song. However, this is no critique, Damn Good Liars deliver this with the correct amount of restraint and delicacy, that it is a pleasant shift in tone.


The EP in general is as a whole, quite minimalist. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot to get your teeth into, it’s more a case of no flourish getting lost in a maelstrom.  The synths are delicate like a meringue and the grungy guitar riffs are sharp enough to sting without bringing out a rash. 


Damn Good Liars promise ‘cool indie vibes’ and they deliver them on this debut release. It’s haunting, claustrophobic and relevant after a year of isolation. We worry about so-called fake news; well Damn Good Liars serve up some eerie home truths of our uncertain times.


Tom Pritchard


Image: Damn Good Liars EP Official Artwork

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