The Lilys: Precollection

Manifesto Records
The Lilys

Great Train Robbery virtuoso Ronnie Biggs has nothing on Kurt Heasley. Over the past 11 years, the Lilys frontman has masterminded some of the most audacious heists of English music that the American indie-rock world has ever seen. From his early shoegazing fetish to his subsequent British Invasion obsession, Heasley's rarely met a Union Jack-clad genre he didn't like.

So it continues with Precollection: On this latest release, Heasley proves to have more credibility than your average wannabe-Anglophile who heads down to the pub for the Arsenal-Liverpool match without knowing his arse from an offside trap. Though Precollection frequently finds him appropriating Ray Davies's North London accent, Heasley still manages to come off more as a giddy fanboy who's forever singing along with (and taking notes on) his idol's albums than a contrived retro-marketer. His manifest sincerity makes the album an engaging listen--even if you don't need a cheat-sheet to play Spot-the-Influences.

Though if you were to play that game, you wouldn't just find the names of early '60s icons. The Byronic strains of the title track find the sextet slipping into Smiths territory, even as they counter the jangle with a scruffy fuzz-guitar lick. From there, they ease into the pastoral, Nick Drake-inspired "Melusina," which spotlights Heasley's sweet, breathy voice and dramatic swoopery. Yet the band's old Nuggets fixation is still fully present: The groovy pop-psychedelia of "Squares" and "Perception Room" recalls Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, while "Meditations on Speed" plays like Colin Blunstone fronting the Stones circa 1965. And Heasley's best Davies impression can be found on the especially precious and sentimental "Mystery School Assembly."

The current state of rock music would have you believe that, if originality were the sole criteria for airplay, modern radio would spin 24 hours of silence. While Precollection does little to dispel that notion, at least the Lilys' earnest homage to days gone by demonstrates that there's some honor among magpies and thieves.

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