A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns

Apr 08, 2021
Web Exclusive

By Dom Gourlay


Say what you will about artists allowing their music to be used in television commercials but it was a Levi’s advert in 1997 that introduced yours truly to Lilys. So, for that one will be eternally grateful to the power of TV commercials.

Of course, the 1990s were a completely different landscape. Both musically and in the mediums of communicating such wares. Indeed, it seems paradoxical harking back to life before the onslaught of the internet. A parallel universe where hidden gems really had to be uncovered by whatever means necessary.

However, it was in the spring of 1997 that this near quarter of a century love affair began, and trawling backwards through Lilys’ already extensive catalogue unearthed a treasure trove of magical sounds. Records that would surely have gotten more attention in the present day, and thanks to countless references from acts past and present, the legend of Lilys enjoys a new lease of life every so often.

Which is where this timely reissue of the band’s second album comes in. Entitled A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns, it was originally released as a limited edition 10-inch vinyl by lamented New York independent SpinART back in 1994. Out of print for over 25 years, copies have since changed hands on Discogs and eBay for anywhere up to $275! So, as well as providing a well-deserved reappraisal of one of the decade’s most understated acts, it also means this record can be purchased without having to take out a small business loan first.

Recorded between the back end of 1993 and early part of 1994, the songs that make up A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns represents Lilys’ transition from My Bloody Valentine obsessives as demonstrated on 1992’s debut, In The Presence of Nothing, to obtuse no wavers occupying a similar ball park to the likes of Pavement and Polvo during the same period.

Essentially the brainchild of founder member and only constant Kurt Heasley, this reissue collects the six songs that made up the album’s first pressing alongside five demos recorded during the same era. “Ginger”—itself synonymous with a Calvin Klein advertising campaign from the mid-‘90s—and the delightful “Jenny, Andrew & Me” stand out as wonderful, timeless pop artifacts. Ably assisted by the glorious “Dandy” and the two-minute blast of “Any Place I’ve Lived,” this is as good as guitar pop gets from a decade (wrongly) dominated by happenings over the other side of the Atlantic.

The bonus tracks all make essential listening, particularly the delicate chimes of “Elsa” and “Timber,” which both provide insights into where Heasley and Lilys were heading next. Someone once remarked—possibly in a drunken state—Lilys are a band that should have been bigger than The Beatles. While that might not be strictly true, Kurt Heasley is one of the finest songwriters of his generation and if this reissue affords him and Lilys some long overdue recognition, justice has been well and truly served. (www.frontierrecords-lilys.bandcamp.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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