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Lilys — A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns
(Frontier 31090-1, 1993/2021, LP)

Lilys — The 3 Way
(Sundazed LP 5584, 1999/2021, LP)

by Jon Davis, Published 2021-10-17

A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns Cover artThe 3 Way Cover art

A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns was the second album by Lilys, released in 1993, though it didn’t show up in my awareness until much later, after I’d already heard some of the band’s later albums. Lilys occupy a stylistic area that crosses psychedelic rock with noisy shoegaze, and A Brief History shows them in fine form, with catchy melodies and appealing arrangements. The original release was kind of a mini-album, with only six tracks, and this new LP version features ten, dropping one of the originals and adding four tracks from a split EP they did with Aspera ad Astra in 2000 plus one previously unreleased song. Leader Kurt Heasley captures the early 90s perfectly with his catchy melodies and driving beats drenched in just the right amount of reverb — enough that there’s a dreamy mood but not so much that everything is too obscure to enjoy. The guitars are mostly noisy, the bass is mostly supportive, and the drums keep it simple so the tunes can shine. The Bevis Frond is a sensible comparison, with a similar blend of psychedelia and 90s noise. The tracks from 2000 fit in well stylistically, and it’s good to have this gem more widely available.

The 3 Way is from 1999 and finds Lilys in a very different mood. Right off the bat we get “Dimes Make Dollars,” a blast of 60s garage rock with a fuzz guitar riff and combo organ, reminiscent of The Seeds and other Nuggets bands. Subsequent tracks take on different 60s flavors, some bringing in harpsichord, Mellotron, or sitar for a baroque pop sound. Gone is the wash of reverb and the wall of distortion, replaced by a clean, sparkly sound with the distortion limited to the lead guitar parts. Bouncy backing vocals fill out the arrangements with clever counterpoint and harmonies. Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Pretty Things, and Dukes of Stratosphear come to mind, and Lilys do a great job of living up to the standards of the genre. So depending on your tastes, either of these Lilys reissues (or both) could find a worthy spot in your library. I lean toward The 3 Way for the more varied sound palette, but both are fine albums.

Filed under: Reissues, 2021 releases, 1993 recordings, 1999 recordings

Related artist(s): Lilys

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