The Music of Scottish Singer-Songwriter Billy Liar
Edinburgh, Scotland-based troubadour Billy Liar, whose take on acoustic punk has been widely appreciated throughout the scene in recent years, is what you get when you consider the punk-before-punk standard of the genre, before much of it was stamped with that particular label, neatly packaged and made into a commercialized movement lacking substance. That was when the powerful statements, meaningful expressions, and music were equally effective, properly sung, and done acoustically as they were shouted, snarled, and banged out in sloppy chords saturated in distortion. Billy Liar has brought that back, with little more than his distinctive voice and trusty acoustic guitar. He writes and plays songs infused with the products of a keen mind, a heart so involved in what he does you can almost hear it beating deep in the bodies of his songs, and a soul at once old in its observation and poetry and young in that it hasn’t yet been utterly destroyed by the world.
I first came across Billy Liar’s music sometime in late 2005 or early 2006, when the songs of his debut EP were newly added to the web. “Back On My Feet Again” and “This House Is a Fire Hazard,” I remember thinking, were truly impressive songs for an artist’s first efforts; and revisiting them now the same occurs to me. Since then, he has written and recorded a bunch of songs, each release marked by his perceptible evolution as a singer/songwriter. But he has really come into his own as an artist on his latest EPs: The Ghosts of Punk Rock and All I’ve Got.
“All I’ve Got” is a love story of sorts told through music that goes in a somewhat rootsy direction yet stays true to Billy Liar’s punk style. “Change” opens with a bit of violin, moves to vocals over remarkably sparse instrumentation, and finally moves into full-on strumming accompanied by violin. The lyrics for “Change” are words I can relate to wholeheartedly, and I imagine a lot of others can too, especially the chorus:
I want to see your blood spill on the stage
I want to feel your heartbeat through the PA
I want to hear true adolescent rage
I want to be inspired,
I want to see something change.
“The Ghosts of Punk Rock” is a killer folk song inspired by the Scottish punk band The Exploited, which goes through a list of lessons learned by members Gary McCormack, Big John Duncan and Wattie Buchan, and ends by singing: ‘
Cause without him, there would be no Dead Cities
Without him, there would be no Alternative
Without him, there would be no UK 82
And it was him that wrote Army Life, not you.
And one of my personal favorites of the lot, “The Difference,” explains why he prefers the city to the suburbs or country:
To you, the grass is always greener than concrete blocks and cold brick walls
You’re more inspired by the rivers than shopping malls and toilet stalls
It never meant much to me, I’d trade a beautiful view for graffiti
But that’s the difference between you and me.
Billy Liar will be in the US this month to play some shows. Only two events are listed so far, however. The first is on October 25th in New York City, where he will be playing Cracktober Fest along with Leftover Crack. And the second is on November 2nd, when he will be performing at Fest 13 in Gainesville, Florida.