One of the most important records of the '00s nearly slipped through our fingers. Seemingly without warning, Brooklyn's party-punk pin-ups transformed into abrasive, hypnotic, weird-as-fuck noise-punk terrorists. Critics recoiled: Liars fell from Pitchfork's favor ("impenetrable and alienating"), garnered one star from Rolling Stone ("a record you fear listening to") and earned a rare F from Spin ("unlistenable"). Years later, this swift dismissal feels like writers were watching Gomer Pyle instead of the Moon landing.
They Were Wrong is caustic, sure; a drum-driven Bad Moon Rising ritual marked by scraped cymbals, backmasked skree, burnt-and-melting Casios and the occasional wash of rustling leaves. The closest comparison is a forest-dwelling version of Public Image Ltd.'s equally polarizing (and guitar-less) The Flowers Of Romance. But for all its bloodletting clatter and spookhouse Neubaten clank , They Were Wrong is never actually devoid of swooning melody — though that's probably its least notable feature. Alongside Animal Collective's Sung Tongs, Wrong helped set the stage for a decade's worth of blog-worthy bands where disjointed rhythms and expansive textures said more than melodies ever could, including the bounce and flutter of Gang Gang Dance, Battles, Fuck Buttons, These New Puritans and countless others. Their dark-hued fascination with witchcraft was transmuted through distortion pedals, a decidedly post-modern spell that emerged in the ghostly dystopias of Portishead's Third, the dubby anguish of Demdike Stare and moody murk of "witch house" acts like Salem.
Behold the WTF moment that quietly spawned a hundred possessed offspring.