With 2014’s The Cover Of Hunter, Liam Betson transitioned from recording as Liam The Younger to releasing music under his given name. Next month, he’ll put out another album (his sixth in total), called Austerity Measures — “Perhaps these songs will help convey the love and hope I often feel, despite my ignorance,” he says in an introduction to his new material.
“The only compliment I’ve received that really made me blush was that I choose my words carefully,” he also writes, and Betson’s economical style is on full display on new single “The Comedians.” It’s obliquely political and characteristically engrossing, with a wiry frame and urgently pressing synths (a rare addition to the Betson repertoire). Betson has always been adept at masking complex concepts in murky and strained rock songs; “The Comedians” may stand as one of his finest. The song unravels in studied layers, engaging with disparate histories with references to communards and Soviet and Nazi ideologies. “Contradictions amounting to the same thing, the same view,” Betson sings. “Bless the comedians, and spit at the past.” It’s a lot to unpack but, as always, Betson’s music is well worth the effort.
Here’s Betson’s introduction to the album:
“Where there is an œuvre, there is no madness.”
The point is to give some order to thoughts. To excavate memory, speech, identity, history. Sometimes approaching things unreasonably, obliquely, or simply against common sense can help. A strange order can help.
The point is to keep yourself entertained, and to do so cheaply. Writing poems outside the grocery store, cross-legged on the parquet, playing music with a child’s toy, recording the results in an apartment above a Hungarian restaurant. See the mice scurry amongst pastries left in the window overnight.
So there’s the joke about austerity. Setting limits to boost growth. Harper Lee had a regular booth at McDonald’s. There is something about the phrase “living deliberately” which sticks in my mind. The only compliment I’ve received that really made me blush was that I chose my words carefully.
If somewhere the question is asked, “What was 2014-2016?” then this is my infinitesimal contribution to its answer. I am politically and historically located. And however impossible it feels, or may actually be, to pinpoint the significance of this body and this location, or to understand my role as an actor, perhaps these songs will help convey the love and hope I often feel, despite my ignorance.
02 “Remove Me”
06 “The Comedians”
07 “Framework / Not Today”
08 “The Past Tense”
09 “Soft Wounds”