This isn’t too surprising of a theory, but it’s basically a law of nature that when the world is going to shit, music is at its best. Think back to the turbulent ’60s, or the impact the Thatcher Regime had on punk’s first big wave, or the latest assault on women’s rights that has caused legions of righteously angry women to make their voices heard up on stages across the world. But where groups like Perfect Pussy present a near wordless, primal articulation of that frustration, Vancouver’s Lié are viciously clear, with Ashlee Luk’s forboding vocals and jagged guitar cutting through the murky low end provided by Britt West and Kati J with precision and focus. On their debut album Consent, Lié want you to hear every note of rage as they effortlessly develop an intriguingly fresh post-punk sound, a well-bred descendant of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ shadowy angularity and A-Frames industrial clangor. It’s a debut that refuses to be heard in the background, commanding attention from start to end as it carves out its own unique sonic space.
Outside of the sharpness of their audio assault, Lié’s other notable feature is their knack for emphasizing the explosiveness of their sound through clever arrangements that juxtapose the throaty richness of Luk’s voice with the scratchy aesthetic of her guitar. Most of the Siouxsie and the Banshees’ elements of Lié’s sound come strictly from Luk, who has both Siouxsie Sioux’s commanding vocal presence and Steve Severin’s propensity for unleashing amplified maelstroms. The album starts with West and Kati J providing a dirge of a bassline and a primal beat respectively before Luk kicks “Rat River” off in full with a call and response structure with herself. It isn’t long before the song build into “Casual Embrace” and takes on a more constant noise approach akin to the middle stretch of Sonic Youth’s Sister, all swirling cymbals and guitar stabs, Luk’s voice shifting between a monotonous chant and a furious wail.
When Lié up the tempo on “Capture Bonding,” the Wipers end of their influences is clearer, particularly in the psych-surf texture her guitar takes on, and the song’s climactic “No future! No future! No future!/No heroes!” mantra cheekily references the more traditionalist punk of the Sex Pistols and the Stranglers. “Broken” also features an amped up tempo, but here West’s bass gets the starring role, doing the bulk of the chord work with a fuzzed out, trebly tone that brings to mind Klaus Fluoride’s contributions to the Dead Kennedys as Luk sticks mostly to chimy riffs and bursts of noise. Luk’s tone, both vocally and on guitar, serves as a unifier for the group, making the sound of Consent immediately recognizable regardless of context, but West and Kati J’s eagerness to experiment with their own approaches and sounds keep the album from sounding monotonous or quickly wearing thin and thus keeps them from running into the issue Savages did when they transitioned from EPs to a full length.
Even without that sonic flexibility, though, Luk knows her way around a rebel chant and her lyrics are tailor made for sloganeering. There’s the third wave feminism angle of “Success,” for instance, with its unapologetic declaration that “We cheat, we lie, we fuck/Just to get on top,” making it clear that no woman should hesitate to do what it takes to achieve her goals let alone have to defend those actions. The song’s title may seem cheeky, but Lié aren’t making judgment calls, they’re demanding acceptance of their tactics, punching their way through any obstacles getting in the way of what success means to them. The copy that introduces the band on their American label That’s Cool Records’ Bandcamp page further emphasizes this as it notably avoids comparing Lié to any riot grrrl or current gen punk bands fronted by women, instead referencing testosterone heavy acts like Black Flag and Shellac.
But Lié’s most incendiary moment comes in the form of a song even an act as bold as Shellac couldn’t possibly do justice to, with the head on rape confrontation in “Sorry.” Told from the perspective of a woman calling out and taking down a friend’s rapist, “Sorry” forces the listener to experience the frequently unmentioned side effects of rape, as the perpetrator “fills the faces in her dreams,” brutalizing the victim not just physically but emotionally too. The fiercest criticism within “Sorry” is aimed at the notion that we should feel sympathy for these perpetrators too, with the song forgoing a chorus in favor of a breakdown, the guitar slicing the air in atonal bursts as Luk repeats “You’re sorry/So sorry?” with scathing faux-pity before the band moves into a terrifying, near robotic mantra of “It’s not your fault/it’s not your/fault” that ultimately reaches its climax with a nerve shattering vocal outburst from Luk.
Lié undoubtedly recorded Consent before the debacle of Rolling Stone’s UVA story, so “Sorry” has unfortunately taken on a new, more tragic relevance, with the “It’s not your fault” repetition gaining more complicated extra layers of meaning. Consent is fearless in its attack on the stereotypes and dismissals that hold back women but it’s also fully aware of how hopeless things can seem, how every day brings new attempts to undo the progress women have made. There is no good that comes from the current political landscape’s war on women’s rights, but it’s at least a little easier to believe that strides will be made knowing that more groups like Lié’ are emerging to inspire and stir up listeners, and while Consent isn’t going to lose its topicality any time soon, there is also a hopefulness in the message, a demand for listeners to harness the power of their frustration and anger.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover