Billy Liar - Some Legacy (Cover Artwork)

Billy Liar

Some Legacy (2019)

Red Scare

When Red Scare announced they were picking up a new act and releasing the album Some Legacy, I quickly rummaged through Billy Liar’s back catalogue to see what was coming down the pipe. His past releases are generally stripped down, fiery songs with honest lyrics and vivid imagery. So I was completely thrown off when I heard the first track of the new record. In retrospect, I think I was a bit disappointed at first simply because it wasn’t what I expected. But the disappointment faded pretty quickly.

“The View From Here” sets the tone immediately. The track begins with a rousing attack of the snare leading the way to a rowdy song that’s pretty representative of the entire album both sonically and lyrically. As Billy snarls “all my feelings have been exposed” amidst a full band assault (Joe McMahon on guitar/vocals, Tim Van Dorn on bass, Robin Guy on drums), it’s hard not to notice the immediate presence of such raw emotion. And as the album continues, the emotion never subsides. Most of the other songs are just as loud and just as intense, though you can still hear the acoustic guitar playing along. This results in a blend of sounds, combining his earlier material with uninhibited punk rock reminiscent of Against Me or The Clash.

While most of the album is loud and intense, there are a few stripped down exceptions, most notably “Independent People” and “Less Vegas”, the latter of which includes a piano and background vocals from Stina Tweeddale. Despite the somewhat somber tone, the songs still maintain a semblance of grit courtesy of Billy’s raw, yet powerful vocal delivery. He has the ability to use his voice as a dynamic instrument, inflecting at just the right times to match the lyrics and the accompanying music. A great example of this comes via “Noose” (which contains the inspiration for the album title). On this song, the vocals gradually build and grow until we reach the coda where Billy shakingly shouts “like a noose around my neck.” with a lotta help from Joe McMahon of Smoke or Fire.

Upon first listen, it’s easy to classify Some Legacy as a damn good album. But after spinning it a few times, it becomes way better than just ‘damn good’. It’s the pointed, vivid lyrics that transform the record. While many of these songs are probably not autobiographical, it’s hard to think otherwise with lines like “I can’t look a stranger in the eye” (I Still Struggle) and “I lost my shit by the slot machine when I realized I was no better than the losers next to me” (Less Vegas). But it’s the lyrics of “Change” that truly personify his approach. This is at least the third version of this song he has released, which makes sense when you hear him howl “I wanna see your blood spilt on the stage, I want to hear your heartbeat through the PA.”

It’s clear that Billy Liar possesses a charisma that cannot be learned. It’s simply natural. Maybe it’s his Scottish accent. Maybe it’s simply his personality. Either way, this charisma is enhanced by the passion he harnesses. A passion for music. A passion for words. A passion for life. And a passion for change.