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Polite Young Man
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Lilys' In the Presence of Nothing is the last great shoegazer album, if you exclude Swirlies from consideration. (Although many Swirlies songs show a strong shoegazer influence, they're usually considered part of Boston's "chimp rock" scene, along with Sebadoh.)
Yes, this album sounds a lot like My Bloody Valentine. Borrowing ideas is how art gets made. MBV were true sonic pioneers, but they never would have gotten there without Cocteau Twins and Jesus & Mary Chain ... in fact, MBV's album Geek sounds more like JMC than MBV. One should also consider that we haven't had a new MBV album in more than a decade, and probably never will have one. (I've started ignoring those rumors of Kevin Shields returning to the studio, and you should too.) If your MBV CDs are as worn down as mine, let this Lilys CD fill a bit of the void ... it comes closer to MBV than Ride, Lush, Slowdive ... or really any other shoegazer band I've heard (and in my MBV hunger, I've hunted down records from almost all of them).
The sound that Kurt Heasley (the guy basically is Lilys) achieves on this album's first seven tracks is a nice midpoint between the wall of noise of Loveless and some of the more delicate songs on Isn't Anything (e.g. "Soft as Snow" or "No More Sorry"), letting the layers of guitar stop short and then explode ... Loveless drowns you in layers of sound, but these songs let you see the wave at a distance before it crashes over you, and this difference, I think, is enough to make this album a welcome addition to MBV's output.
Lilys goes in other directions with the last three tracks on the album, one of which is untitled ... I'm pretty sure the very last track is "Claire Hates Me," since that phrase appears in the lyrics. I don't know which of the other songs is untitled, but I suspect it's the album's eighth track, an ambient piece that is pretty great ... imagine Kevin Shields scoring a film (the sounds under the action, not the soundtrack), perhaps borrowing ideas from the likes of Brian Eno or Philip Glass. The final two songs are sugary pop songs with a shoegazer glaze. These might seem to betray the rich MBV texture of the rest of the album, though you could argue that Heasley was just borrowing from a different part of the MBV canon, as they are in the vein of the MBV B-side "Drive it All Over Me," or the Ecstacy and Strawberry Wine EPs. These two tracks are nice too, for what they are ... a bit of dessert after a satisfying meal.
Later Lilys recordings do not live up to the promise of this one. A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns is an enjoyable but unexceptional EP of riff-based guitar rock. The next LP, Eccsame the Photon Band, is a much more mellow, but still interesting, album ... shimmery and cool, a bit like Slowdive. After that point, Lilys recordings have usually aimed for a sound very close to The Kinks. Heasley can write that stuff too, but if I want to hear British Invasion pop, there's already a ton of great material out there. There is, on the other hand, far too little great shoegazer music out there, and In the Presence of Nothing is a much needed addition to it.