Lilys: Precollection

Robert Hickey



Label: Manifesto
US Release Date: 2003-05-20
UK Release Date: Available as import

Their major label debut, Better Can't Make Your Life Better, should have made Lilys into alternative pop icons. It's a great CD, sounding like something the Kinks would have made had Ray Davies embraced psychedelia instead of taking up charter membership in the Village Green Preservation Society. From start to finish, the record has an electric vitality and ebullience that was largely lacking in the grunge-laden mid-'90s.

Clearly, the band's beatification didn't happen. Their follow-up, the equally British-invasion inspired The 3-Way was quietly released into obscurity. Lilys and their label parted ways. Aside from a few stray tracks, band leader Kurt Heasley and his revolving troupe of musicians have remained silent since.

Precollection marks Lilys' full-length return to an independent label, and their first new album in four years. It's a major departure from their previous two '60s-influenced pop records, but as those familiar with the band know, Kurt Heasley has a restless muse. Before embracing the sounds of the Kinks and the Small Faces, Lilys made My Bloody Valentine-like squalls of feedback, and Stereolab-esqe experimental pop. With Precollection, Heasley's interest has turned to late-'80s UK indie-rock.

Prior to this album, Heasley was very successful at taking his influences and making their sound his own. That's not the case here. Things begin disappointingly with the title-track, a moderately successful attempt at a Smiths' song, minus Johnny Marr's remarkable guitar. It's a genuine shock to hear a band that produced exceptionally lively material turning out a song with such obviously earnest intentions. As the next track, the elegiac and overlong "Melusina", demonstrates, Lilys' playfulness is gone. Although the spare acoustic arrangement displays Heasley's newfound seriousness, it leaves a thin song sounding thinner.

Elsewhere, "Mystery School Assembly" offers up a dirge over an oddly recorded percussion, its sound bleeding badly into the red, leaving a crashing, distorted noise. At one point, Heasley sings, "Something something something something", as though he's fumbling for half-remembered lyrics, before resolving the line: "Something isn't there". A listener might be inclined to agree, especially after hearing "Meditations on Speed". On this track, Heasley's preening vocals are buried in the mix as the band plays a song that could be mistaken for a sloppy cover of the Dandy Warhol's "Bohemian Like You", minus the hooks.

It's not all bleak. "Will My Lord Be Gardening" features a delicate melody and an uplifting chorus. Mike Musmanno's production works against the song, pushing the unimaginatively played drums and bass too high in the mix, but it doesn't negate the tune's pleasures. "Dunes" is an equally strong song, and its evocation of walking hand in hand on a sandy beach offers a rare moment of sunshine in an uncharacteristically dark record.

With its uncomfortable marriage of '60s melodicism, '80s angularity, and '90s slacker production, along with Kurt Heasley's recently acquired solemnity, Precollection is a rare misstep for Lilys. Hopefully, it's the work of a band shedding its former incarnation on its way to something equally brilliant, rather than an album by a group that's just decided to settle for less.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.