Review: Tilly and the Wall, O

Omaha quintet Tilly and the Wall return for another round of their patent-pending Gene Kelly rock.

Tilly and the Wall, OOmaha quintet Tilly and the Wall return for another round of their patent-pending Gene Kelly rock (tap-dancing percussionist Jamie Pressnall’s graceful but energetic style is more Kelly than Fred Astaire) on their third long player O. The album opens with the largely acoustic “Tall Tall Glass,” a paean to music (“When there wasn’t anywhere for me to go/Oh, I stumbled into deep love with you, rock ‘n’ roll,” Kianna Alarid and Neely Jenkins sing in bright, tightly woven harmony) whose jagged electric guitar solo forecasts the rest of the record’s more aggressive tone. Cautionary lead single “Pot Kettle Black” warns of gossipmongers and smack-talkers in a clipped, distorted vocal style set to a rowdy pep-rally stomp; the band sometimes confuses anger for high energy on O, but just one verse of “Pot Kettle Black” possesses more spunk than the entirety of Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend.” Amid all the sassy ‘tude, though, the focus remains on melody (“Falling Without Knowing” boasts an undeniable hook), and three albums in, the Tillys have managed to keep the tap alive by focusing on quality songwriting while at the same time preserving their youthful wonder and elegant sensibilities: “Dust Me Off” features a galloping beat and new-wavy, pedal-effected guitar licks, but its tinkly piano is like that of a child playing for the first time. “Chandelier Lake” begins with an assemblage of found sounds before coalescing into a thumping cacophony of fuzzy guitars, handclaps, whistles, buzzing synths, sparkly sound effects and, of course, Pressnall’s toe-tapping. And speaking of cacophonies, the regal brass and multipart harmonies of “Cacophony” are reminiscent of the Free Design’s “The Proper Ornaments”; producer Mike Mogis even mixes O like a record from 1967.

 Label: Team Love  Release Date: June 17, 2008  Buy: Amazon

Sal Cinquemani

Sal Cinquemani is the co-founder and co-editor of Slant Magazine. His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, The Village Voice, and others. He is also an award-winning screenwriter/director and festival programmer.

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