Opening song “$100” is bookended by a fuzzed, doomed-out version of the riff from Asia’s “Heat of the Moment”; sandwiched in between is some easygoing but hard-living country rock with high and lonesome harmonies. This kind of willingness to juxtapose sludge with jangle has scarcely been seen since Gaffney was in Sebadoh, and isn’t heard again here either. But Water Liars have a license to confuse, too: nowhere on the disc or digipak is the name Water Liars printed, but there is “Phantom Limb” which I’m only guessing is now considered the album title, despite the prominent sticker on the front cover that reads “Water Liars’ debut album Misra.” Elsewhere on the packaging, “Misra” appears not as the album title but as the name of the label. It would seem the band made a last-minte name change as the album was about to come out.
The band’s lineup, listed under the heading “Phantom Limb is”, is a duo involving at least one former member of Theodore, a country-fried indie band whose gritty whiskey-soaked hard-luck balladry could make Drive-By Truckers sound family-friendly. Water Liars retain some of that one-horse-town vibe and the bulk of this album presents a combination of strongly classic country inspired songwriting and vocals with lo-fi scuzz that comes off sounding quite like a stripped-down version of Centro-Matic with a few subtly applied experimental touches like the short tape-manipulation interlude “C.H.W.” or the second half of “On The Day” which turns out to be an ambient noise piece that sounds like it might be constructed from field recordings of subway trains. “It Is Well With My Soul” is arranged with electric guitars that are melted into ambient washes of feedback, and credited as a traditional, though the track seems to be a medley in which the title song is preceded by a song they introduced at the show I saw as “What Fresh Hell Is This?” joined together by a sample which I believe to be the “The Pentagram” listed in the credits as by Alestair Crowley.
Following the punky stomp of “Short Hair” that comes at about the album’s mid-point, the album suffers a bit from an abundance of progressively slower tracks that sort of drift off to sleep heading into the aforementioned “On The Day” (memorable refrain: “I’ll have no more excuses for the way that I’ve treated you”) before finishing up with the undeservedly unlisted tenth track, one of the best songs, which seems likely to be titled “Cold Hearted Woman”. These last two songs especially are full of beautifully expressed aching. Overall not a bad little debut album, and a nice bringing together of the traditional with a few out-there ideas.