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John Foster takes music packaging very seriously. He has deconstructed the design of the recording industry through his personal work and his books, Maximum Page Design (HOW), New Masters of Poster Design (Rockport) and the upcoming For Sale: Innovative Solutions in Packaging Design (HOW) as well as a monograph of Sub Pop’s Art Director, Jeff Kleinsmith, slated for publication by the label in 2008.

He will be poking and prodding various albums on a weekly basis so please be sure to keep an eye out!

This week’s victims:

Liars “s/t”

Is it worth listening to no matter what it looks like? Liars do it to me every time. It is almost as if the hulking frame of front man Angus Andrew towers over me and slowly pulls a copy from his jacket pocket and slips it into my palm without saying a word. After producing a debut tailor made for the times (though none of us knew it at the time), yet looking back to the finest No Wave circa NYC in the early 80s in “They Threw Us All In A Trench…” Liars have managed a great deal of sonic experimentation, but with hit and miss success as far as songwriting is concerned. The problem for me is that when they hit – it is sublime and requires my purchase. Each subsequent disc has had that handful of tracks culminating in the final track on “Drums Not Dead” with the amazing “Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack.”

As their album titles get shorter (finally settling on this self-titled release) they continue that trend. Opening with a roar that rivals their early work with “Plaster Casts of Everything” and making it’s way to the almost pop of “Freak Out,” the band does just enough to recommend it.

Credit: “Packaged by Brian Roettinger (H3) and Liars. Photography by Paul Drake”

Any signs of creative interference in the design process by the artist? I do believe that is the band’s name you see in the credits up there although Hand Held Heart’s Roettinger does more than lend a hand.

Does the look fit the sound? The gritty nature of the packaging mixed with the tiny little artsy touches does a damn fine job or approximating the band’s sound in it’s own special way. Much in the way their past releases have hinted at the interior with the dense muck of “They Were Wrong” or the slightly more playful drawn type of “Drum” this returns to a simpler black and white presentation. Using a photo of Andrews slamming the base of a mic stand against a club ceiling as the tile keeps its distance with thin bands of color slipping out from the circle encompassing it (providing the only color on the entire package.) The feeling is slightly off kilter and mildly abrasive. Continuing on the interior with halftoned photos of performances, the result is nothing special yet it gets the job done. The only real misstep is the layout of the track listing on the interior foldout that approximates a type catalog with it’s hodge-podge of faces.

In the end, the product does just enough to interest the eyes and the ears and whet our appetite for the future.

Final score (out of 10): 5.5

liars.jpg

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