Lilys | A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns (Frontier Records) and The 3 Way (Sundazed) reissues

Chances are if you are a person of a certain age (i.e. Gen X), you probably do not know or remember Lilys but you probably have heard them. Born in 1988 in Washington, DC, Lilys are the brainchild of Kurt Heasley, who led an ever-changing rotation of band members through the entirety of the band’s existence. Lilys, over the course of their eight LP releases and one mini-album, have shifted styles from shoegaze to dream pop to mid-‘60s mod to Kraut-inspired electronics then, sort of, back to shoegaze. They are most famous for being in two very successful commercial campaigns in the ‘90s for CK1 and Levi’s, where most of us Gen Xers would have heard them. The Calvin Klein ad uses the lead track “Ginger” from A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns and Levi’s used “A Nanny in Manhattan” from 1996’s Better Can’t Make Your Life Better, the latter resulting in a Top 20 hit in the UK. This past February, two reissues arrived that showcase the drastic change in styles that the band went through during the late ‘90s.

The long out-of-print A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns, released in 1994 as a mini-album instead of a proper LP, received very positive reviews upon its release and those compliments from 1994 still hold up today as this is just pop perfection. Lead track “Ginger” still makes me feel like I am at a house party, or a club that was made up to feel like a house party with couches and homey stuff (yes, that was a brief thing in the mid ‘90s), just having a great time with friends. On this reissue, album closer “Evel Knieval” has been removed and replaced with a previously unreleased bonus track “G. Cobalt Franklin,” which is a thick-as-molasses homage to My Bloody Valentine. This re-release expands to album length by including several remastered demo tracks; all are incredible additions to the original tracks and deserved to have been included in the original 1994 release. The digital version of this wonderful reissue closes with “Glosseder,” which is almost two minutes of thick, squalling guitar feedback that would make Kevin Shields happy.

If you didn’t know that 1999’s The 3 Way was from the same band as A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns, you wouldn’t be able to tell just by listening. Throughout their existence, the band did shift its tone and style several times, but when you listen to ABHoAL and The 3 Way back to back, the style shift is stark, the former’s fuzzed-out shoegaze pop replaced by pure mod rock that would sound at home in a record shop circa 1966 during the heights of the British Invasion. This isn’t just a cheap copy of music from a long-gone era, though: Heasley takes the sound and tone of that era and uses it as a filter to craft ten incredibly wonderful and sophisticated pop songs that have held up remarkably well in the 22 years since its release. This new remastering is also happening in conjunction with the albums first ever vinyl pressing through Third Man Pressings. There are certain albums that just are better suited for vinyl, and this is most definitely one of those albums. Given the very capable hands of Third Man Pressings, this release is not one to miss. | Michael Koehler

A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns is available for purchase from the Frontier Records Bandcamp page. The 3 Way is available from Sundazed.

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