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Broken Flowers

Lilys records have always afforded a new chance to re-evaluate the band, as two are never made in the same mold. The gap between the austere shoegaze of Eccsame the Photon Band (1994) and the Kinks-inspired speed rush of Better Can’t Make Your Life Better (1996) was only two calendar years, but it represented a paradigm shift of sensibility. Lilys founder and former-wunderkind Kurt Heasley has been able to find support for his ideas, but the players don’t always hang around for the next one; his turnover rate approaches that of Mark E. Smith (“if it’s me and your granny on bongos, it’s the Fall”). Such dramatic moves are all part of Heasley’s frequently-fascinating vision. Lately, however, things have fallen a bit flat.

Case in point: the new Lilys album, Everything Wrong is Imaginary. The title lands with a thud, presaging the clumsy reshuffling of the back catalog that follows. Given Heasley’s cornucopia of propensities, however, the result is still pleasantly varied. It’s just that, in the light of past success, the new stuff just doesn’t sound that fresh or inspired. The strange 80’s-production fixation of 2003’s Precollection has been thankfully curtailed a bit; however, it’s replaced by some heavy-handed production touches. The developing groove of opener “Black Carpet Magic” gets smothered in keyboards halfway. Other choices are just as puzzling -- the credits list three drummers, but programmed percussion dominates. I can’t say that this kind of music benefits from such synthetic textures, though it is used to great effect on the funk-vamp “A Diana’s Diana.” That song has already proven to be a blog favorite, so I’ll forego posting it for one of the more palatable pop numbers, “The Night Sun Over San Juan.” It's unfortunate that personal issues in Heasley’s life prevented him from spending time in the studio, ceding that input to collaborator Michael Musmanno. I have to think that the album would sound more fleshed out had things gone differently; I get the sense that these are demos with some other mentality superimposed on top of them.

For comparison, I offer you “Who Is Moving” and “More Than That Is Deserved” (both from Better Can’t Make Your Life Better). “Who Is Moving” is Heasley at his prime, an infectious stomper with great darting guitar work and an infectious melody. “More Than That Is Deserved” is a bit of a bonus track, having been featured only on the UK version of the album, which came out two years after the domestic release and in a totally different stereo mix (the US original was in something called “double mono”). It’s a bit of a mess, too, with Heasley slurring the vocal as backwards-tape effects clash with strings, tablas, and an otherwise punchy chorus; nevertheless, it still impresses, its sum greater than the parts. And if you’re wondering what I meant by “austere shoegaze,” here’s “The Turtle Which Died Before Knowing,” Eccsame’s unassuming centerpiece.


  • You're right, a disappointment. My favorite is The Three-Way, his "Zombies Record."

    By Blogger Kate, at 10:29 AM  

  • I never got into that record, but then, I never really got Odyssey and Oracle, either, outside of a few tracks. But it's been a while, so I'll have to give it another go.

    By Blogger Todd, at 12:03 PM  

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