A.V. Club Most Read

News Newswire Great Job, Internet!
TV Club All Reviews What's On Tonight
Video All Video A.V. Undercover A.V. Cocktail Club Film Club
Reviews All Reviews Film TV Music Books
Features All Features AVQ&A What's On Tonight
Sections Film Tv Music Food Comedy Books Games Aux
Our Company About Us Contact Advertise Privacy Policy Careers RSS
Onion Inc. Sites The Onion The A.V. Club ClickHole Onion Studios

Lilys: The 3 Way

Lilys
The 3 Way
(Sire)

The context: After penning Lilys' 1991 debut single, the My Bloody Valentine tribute "February 14," bandleader Kurt Heasley launched a mercurial career that saw Lilys shifting from MBV-style shoegazer noise to indie-rock clatter and spacey dream-pop. In 1996, Heasley married his abstract song constructions to British Invasion-inspired riffs for Better Can't Make Your Life Better, an arty-but-tuneful record that boosted Lilys' profile internationally. Sire Records signed them to their first—and thus far only—major-label deal, apparently captivated by Lilys' retro hooks, while missing the conceptual elusiveness that led critic Robert Christgau to derisively describe their sound as "amplified watercolors."

The greatness: Heasley no doubt disappointed Sire by failing to write an MTV-ready hit, but like his beloved My Bloody Valentine, at least Lilys made the most of their chance to play with house money. The 3 Way is densely layered and brilliantly deconstructive, reinterpreting garage-rock the way a cubist might paint a bowl of fruit. Heasley's stream-of-consciousness lyrics rarely rhyme or even follow a common pattern, though those patient enough to wait out his familiar, yet maddeningly alien, idea of pop are rewarded with triumphant moments of cohesion.

Defining song: 3 Way's songs generally begin with a Kinks-y riff and then wander freely, giving the impression of a man channel-surfing through classic television and stopping whenever he sees teenagers dancing. On "Socs Hip," the first five seconds feature skittery Jackson 5 guitar, and the next 15 add a lush Herman's Hermits chorale. Then the song settles in for 30 seconds of flamenco-kissed acoustic balladry before a Duane Eddy guitar lick sets up the remaining six minutes of strings, harp, piano, sax, and a style ranging from doo-wop to barrelhouse. "Socs Hip" sounds like all the music from a typical Shindig episode, shattered and bent around a brittle, non-linear short story.