KatieJane Garside has been a cult fixture of the alt-rock scene for over thirty years now. Familiar to most through her work with Daisy Chainsaw and Queenadreena, she now returns with her latest project, Liar, Flower alongside collaborator guitarist Chris Whittingham.
The pair have, of course, have collaborated before, producing four albums under the moniker Ruby Throat. However, where those albums went down a more folky path, this latest work sees Garside return to her more hard-edged roots. Or it may be fairer to say this project provides a bridge between these two forms falling somewhere in between the neo-folk of Ruby Throat and the art-rock of Queenadreena.
The album oscillates between these two poles throughout, kicking off with the gentle autoharp driven folk of I am Sundress (She of Infinite Flowers) complete with Garside’s whispered, almost childlike, vocals, before launching into the all-out guitar attack of My Brain Is Lit Like An Airport. This time around, Garside’s vocals are transformed into full-blown grungy caterwauling.
This latter track is one of many to feature some mystifyingly surreal lyrics. Such as the chorus, which goes, “My brain is lit like an airport, so the angels will find me.” Not that the weirdness is strictly kept to the lyrics. No, there are plenty of musically oddball moments too, like on Broken Light, a beautifully mellifluous track that ends with what sounds like a harp being murdered. Or even more curiously, the punky Even Through The Darkest Clouds which has a mobile phone alarm go off in the outro as if the pair needed to be reminded when the track ends.
Not that any of these oddities necessarily harm the album. The opposite is true, as it only adds to the wonderfully off-kilter atmosphere the record builds throughout both in its quietest and loudest moments.
Perhaps the weirdest track of all (and one of the highlights) is Little Brown Shoes. Whittingham’s offbeat guitar work makes it sound like the soundtrack to a demented funhouse. Garside’s yelps and howls only add to its distinctly sinister atmosphere.
Not every track proves to be as captivatingly eccentric as this, but there is precious little in the way of weak links throughout the twelve tracks. If there is any real criticism to be made, it is some of the aforementioned rockier tracks suffer a little from overfamiliarity. They will certainly hold no surprises for Queenadreena fans and could have been released anytime between the late 90s and now.
Few LPs would try squeeze in sounds as varied as art-rock, folk, psych-folk, Riot Grrrl, and even a smattering of electronica. Fewer still, that could do so successfully and cohesively. But that is precisely what Liar, Flower have done on Geiger Counter.