Material: The fact that the Charming Liars is made up of English musicians and a Californian singer might seem like a small detail at first, but a short while into their set, as Winter edges forward in Hollywood, it starts to feel very relevant. In fact, Kiliyan Maguire only relatively recently joined the band; Charlie Cosser was with the Liars when they crossed the Atlantic in search of success. That said, Maguire is an astute addition, lending some much-needed “rock star” vibes to the fairly standard riffy alt-rock. The music, a listenable combination of Bush-esque post grunge, U2-ish anthemic hard rock and ‘80s new-wave of the Depeche Mode variety, doesn’t break any new ground but plays the “heavy with melody” game nicely. Recent single “Soul” is a perfect example.
Musicianship: Karnig Manoukian on guitar and Mike Kruger on bass are undoubtedly the engine room of the band. The Brits do everything right without ever roaming into “spectacular” territory. But then, these songs don’t ask for that. Maguire’s vocal range is impressive enough, and the electronic flourishes add a relentlessly pulsing and welcome machine-like quality.
Performance: Visually, it’s all about Maguire, a man blessed with good looks and natural charisma. Yes, maybe he plays with his hair a little much and, yes, he loves that tried-and-tested “foot on the monitor” look. But he’s a lead singer—a breed that is supposed to come complete with an over-abundance of ego. He plays the part to perfection, and his between- song banter is charming.
Summary: Charming Liars feels a little bit like a band in transition. One gets the feeling they came over to the States from England as a unit and, having lost the singer, are having to find themselves all over again with a new key member. But the signs are good and, long-term, the turmoil may well be a blessing. The size of the crowd on a Thursday evening at the Viper suggests that people are interested, so they just need to keep working.