Music

Lilys: Precollection

Robert Hickey

Lilys

Precollection

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

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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