Lilys “The 3 Way”

Sire Records

Kurt Heasley, the main man behind Lilys, has never made the same record twice. Granted, there were three records in the nineties that are probably the closest related in Lilys’ storied catalog–1996’s “Better Can’t Make Your Life Better”, 1997’s “Services For the Soon to be Departed” EP, and this album, “The 3 Way”, from 1999. All three records wear a spirited admiration for Ray Davies on their proverbial sleeves, and they stand out as each other’s kin when compared to the band’s early shoegaze-y output and their later drone-influenced, just-flat-out-odd material.

“The 3 Way” is the best of them. It stands out as Lilys’ most realized and daring work, taking this love for The Kinks and the Beach Boys and morphing it into a semi-psychedelic chamber pop salad. All the quintessential elements of sixties mod rock are present–the crunchy guitar, the rattling organ/harpsichord combo, and the perfect ping of the drums. But Heasley has a great way of taking all of these ingredients and mixing them into something oddly original, a sort of re-exploration of the rock music that inspires him.

The album’s best songs are the more adventurous ones. “One on One (and One)”, a haunting ode to addiction, mixes darker elements with the aforementioned styles and ends up being a stumbling anthem for wayward behavior. “When will I shake this device?” Heasley sings in a resistant tenor, as if he knows he should be free of addiction, but does not really want to be. This fence-straddling between doing one’s own thing and playing by the rules is the dichotomy of “The 3 Way” that allows it to thrive.

As an album, “The 3 Way” is an excellent balance between a salute to one’s heroes and the restless urge to tinker with and expand upon their ideas. To call it a throwback would not only be unfair, it would be missing the point completely–it’s an appreciative and inspired re-imagination of the golden age of rock music, made for record geeks by record geeks.

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