With the Water Liars's self-titled album - the band's third record in as many years - you could be forgiven for thinking that you're in for a jarring ride based on the song titles and the opening track's bleak but majestic riff. "Cannibal" is followed by "War Paint" and "I Want Blood."
You are in for a ride, although it's less the beat-down and carnage that the titles suggest than a careening from loud distortion to gentle Americana and back. "Ray Charles Dream" is a hooky, punk-tinged rock song sandwiched between the slow-footed guitar lament of "Tolling Bells" and the even-slower-footed piano lament of "Vespers."
"That's always been sort of a point for us," said singer/songwriter/guitarist Justin Kinkel-Schuster in a phone interview last week, promoting the trio's May 14 performance at Rozz-Tox. "Widely shifting dynamics has always been an important part of our sound ... both live and on records. ... I just always am intrigued by moving between those poles. There's something interesting about taking a ride like that."
It's not merely a sonic roller coaster. The title and sentiment of "I Want Blood" ("I want blood all the time") would seem to lend themselves to a ravenous rock treatment, but the song instead places the lyrics in a warm and ethereal musical context, making it a reverb-heavy anthem to searching and soaring. "Tension is why art exists," Kinkel-Schuster explained of the apparent contradiction. "Without tension, I don't think there's a whole lot to go on. ... Without tension you don't have a story; there's nothing to resolve."