Tilly and The Wall - O
Miss Fliss 06/09/2008
A more seamlessly pretty score of songs you could not find than on Tilly and the Wall's remarkably hook-laden debut album, Wild Like Children. Bright eyed and bristling with exuberant energy, it provided the new pop notion of tap dancing as drum beats, alongside cheerleader happy chants, and fairytale sweet storytelling (though sometimes the cute sounds belied the dark lyricisms within). It introduced Tilly and the Wall as one of the most melodically brilliant bands the world has surely ever known. These were songs you could grin your head off to, sing at the top of your lungs, else dance to with manic abandon and fervent delight.
Where the band's debut album was mellifluous in its bursts of pure joy, its follow up, 2006's Bottoms of Barrels was a more varied body of work. The mood was more mixed in its emotions, the pace more thoughtful more often, the music less a Technicolor cartoon punch in the face - in other words, mature. Taking in Spanish style dance rhythms, electro swirls, country and western hoe downs, piano balladry, Mexican horns, and thumping drum beats, it was diverse and not so much a step up as staying on an even keel, remaining the pop perfect Tilly we first knew and adored.
Tilly's newest album, O, is a sprint in a different direction - or rather, many different directions. Confused was my initial reaction, since it seems to be an album that wants to experiment with various whimsies, yet masters none of them individually to cohesion or perfection. I was surprised to hear the Kills style of the single Pot Kettle Black, which is an achingly simple blast of garage guitars grinding dirty and groovy against stomping beats. Beat Control is also something of a departure from old school Tilly, since it could have been released by a europop outfit circa 1992, with its kitsch disco beats, synth freakouts, beeps and teen-friendly hip hop delivered lyrics: There is nothing stopping you / there is nothing stopping me / so let that beat control your body / baby. Other moments such as Cacophony are the usual Tilly tap, lilting piano, acoustic guitars, and choral delight but to the point of tried and tested to tiresomeness. So it's hard to know how to receive this album. Whilst I don't want Tilly to adhere to a formula that could become jaded, I'm not seduced by their experimentals here either.
Had O been Tilly and the Wall's debut album, I might be more impressed by the sprinklings of multifarious ideas and approaches. As a third album, I can't help but feel the band have given in to trying desperately to show new facets, and the vibe is somewhat forced; the overall result a sprawling mess. But if it was melody that reeled me in so rushingly in the first place, it's melody that affords the album charm. Too few bands smile when they sing to the point where on record the sheer enjoyment and relishing of the act can be heard, Tilly are openly gleefully cheerful to the point of infectiousness.
So, whilst O is stylistically in disarray and perhaps a blunder, the old glittering shine of catchy melody is here in spades. Take your pick from the cutesy ecstatic doo doo doo hum of Dust me Off, or the floaty electro glide and heartfelt vocal determination of Falling Without Knowing, or the childish innocent, fairground neon lit ambience of the anthemia Chandelier.
Perhaps O would have worked to more successful effect as a 6-track EP, cherry picking the more pop obvious numbers that compliment each other, or maybe the joy to be found here is in the chaos of the music styles. What is clear that the overriding persistent sense of melody is what will win the listener over, and for that Tilly and the Wall remain a rare treasure, as vital, vibrant and colourful as life itself.
O is released on October 6th, 2008.