They Were Wrong, So We Drowned was released on February 24th 2004 by Mute Records. It was produced by Liars and David Sitek.

Sometimes, second albums take the approach they're meant to: more of the same but a little bit better. Sometimes they do the same as the debut and fail miserably. Other times there's hints of other directions creeping in with a core sound remaining. Then there are those rare second albums that are an absolute departure for a band, something so unexpected it shocks. Welcome to They Were Wrong, So We Drowned.Liars second album was critically divisive on release, completely unanticipated by most due to its musical departure. In fact, I don't think departure is really the word to describe just how different this album is to the debut They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top. Perhaps a musical-lightspeed-jump-away is a more appropriate term. So, how does it stand up now, ten years after its release?

They Were Wrong, So We Drowned benefits from a revisionist approach when listening to it now. In the same way an Historian may come to view an event differently because of related events that followed, the listener now has the benefit of hearing where Liars went next following the album then listening to They Were Wrong, So We Drowned again and potentially understanding why they did things the way they did. This album is such a left-turn for Liars it's understandable why it got the criticism it did; the expectation was a dance-punk follow-up that built upon the debut and not what the album became. Essentially it doesn't make sense from that point of view, why suddenly come out with something as jarring as this? However, listen to Sisterworld or listen to WIXIW with They Were Wrong, So We Drowned in mind and see how far Liars have managed to master atmospherics and textures, and suddenly the album makes perfect sense; it's easy to see what Liars were attempting to achieve and there appears to be a career gameplan. There is a reason behind the madness. Of course, the unique thing with They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is there was no gradual journey into a different musical world in the way so many other bands have done, Liars just reinvented themselves.

This reinvention, coupled with the shift in sound from the debut was the sticking point for most when the album was originally released. Well, depending on which review you've read They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is either fantastic or unlistenable. I still don't understand the unlistenable comments. Yes, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is a challenge, devoid for the most part of conventional instrumentation and musical passages, but is that really unlistenable? Just because a band uses different methods to convey what it wants to on an album that doesn't make something unlistenable. They impetus is on the listener to work the album out and decipher the sounds, rhythms and textures to create the imagery in their head, and that's one of the triumphs of They Were Wrong, So We Drowned: Liars created a level of ambiguity on the album after the basic concept. One person's personal imagery may be different from the next persons.

It's a masterstroke that the lyrics are abstract and essentially all we have are song titles to go on. All that's left to colour each song is the music, and to me that's perfect. It's the classic Kid A situation where the music is the description, the very heartbeat of each song, where each scream, dissonant chord and cymbal crash is how Liars convey emotion, rather than rely on lyrical description. This way, Liars set the basic scene while it's up to the listener to complete that scene off in their head. Knowing the concept of the album beforehand certainly helps, armed with that knowledge the album comes to life. Rhythmic dissonance and atonal structures convey the fear and paranoia felt in a community in the witch-hunting period; the glitch nature of most tracks ensures the listener can't settle, it constantly keeps you on edge. There's some fairly aggressive and punk sounding songs which you'd assume covers the anger that would've been around at the time, maybe during a hunt, a burning or a drowning. I love how hypnotic 'We Fenced Other Gardens With The Bones Of Our Own' is, there's a mystical nature to it because of those grooves, as if Liars are channelling something spiritual and dark. The hypnotic grooves suggest we're entering a world of sorcery and magic when listening to the song, much the same as when hypnotic chanting breaks out on other songs, as if there's some mesmeric influence over proceedings. But that's the point with this album, while the band has placed these themes and emotions all over the album, they've only introduced the basic starting points so they're not obvious and easy to miss. If you give it the attention it needs and put a little thought into everything on the album it comes to life in whichever way the listener chooses.

I've always found it fascinating how perceptions of albums can change over time, be that weeks, months or years. With They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, a timescale doesn't really apply, it's more a case of using albums as milestones rather than time. Turns out Liars weren't really on a mad one releasing this, they were setting themselves a career direction, and even a career challenge, to perfect the approaches they took on this album and that's only evident when listening to the subsequent releases. The more you listen to those albums the more you get this one and understand what Liars were up to releasing this. What seemed like a completely odd move in 2004 turned out to be a stroke of genius.

  • Tracklisting:
  • 1. Broken Witch
  • 2. Steam Rose from the Lifeless Cloak
  • 3. There's Always Room on the Broom
  • 4. If You're a Wizard Then Why Do You Wear Glasses?
  • 5. We Fenced Other Gardens with the Bones of Our Own
  • 6. They Don't Want Your Corn, They Want Your Kids
  • 7. Read the Book That Wrote Itself
  • 8. Hold Hands and It Will Happen Anyway
  • 9. They Took 14 for the Rest of Our Lives
  • 10. Flow My Tears the Spider Said