AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #22 : TILLY AND THE WALL

Tilly and the Wall - HTHWS
Another very fine guest contribution today, this time courtesy of someone who rather shyly has asked to be known as Strangeways.  He/she is someone who I’ve got to know and befriend over the time since I began this blog and he/she has superb taste in music going by the tunes he/she unearths at DJ spots in and around Glasgow.  So when the idea of a compilation album by a band I know nothing about was offered I had no hesitation in accepting….

Hi JC

I hope this finds you well.

As threatened, here is a pop at a contribution. Give it a read when you get time, but please feel no obligation to include it.

As you’ll see, it is one intended for the Imaginary Compilation Albums files. Like a lot of readers I think this is a superb series.

I noticed that Tuesday’s featured a mocked-up sleeve, so I had a go at that too as I thought it was a great addition to the overall idea. If you like this I can email the tunes to you if you need them.

Also – could I go by the bashful pen name of Strangeways?…..

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM

TILLY AND THE WALL: HARD TO HOLD WITHOUT SHATTERING

Note: This compilation draws only from Tilly’s four LPs so far – Wild Like Children; Bottoms of Barrels; O and Heavy Mood – as I’m not yet familiar with B-sides or the early, funny Woo! EP.

I’m awful at writing about music.

That’s not a sentence designed to attract reassurances to the contrary. I really do struggle with writing about music, particularly songs I love. And it takes me ages too. So hats off to this blog, its captain and its contributors. Here’s my go at it:

Tilly and the Wall is a band from Omaha, Nebraska. And the whole thing really ought not to work. It sounds like an X Factor disaster: a bunch of brightly dressed energetic young Americans who, instead of lugging a drum kit around, often rely on one of their number, Jamie Williams Pressnall, to tap-dance upon an amplified box. It’s not a gimmick if it works . And it does. They always look so happy too.

But perhaps that’s the secret right there. Perhaps Tilly – collectively Kianna Alarid, Neely Jenkins, Derek Pressnall, Jamie Williams Pressnall and Nick White – are an antidote to the cool cynicism that can sometimes characterise the genre the band broadly fits into. I mean, they’ve even appeared on Sesame Street. It’s difficult – but fun – to imagine The Fall doing that.

Either way, I feel lucky to have seen Tilly a couple of times at King Tut’s in Glasgow. Both were joyful, incendiary shows.

I missed them when they played a festival in a park just down the road from my old secondary school though. It’s mind-boggling to think of their tunes drifting along the old number 35 bus route. Just how did a band from so far away end up playing in that truant spot of choice, where the top boys would smoke, tie the swings in knots and write all over the roundabouts?

Side A

1. Nights of the Living Dead (Wild Like Children, 2004)

I first heard the band maybe ten years ago. It was by happy accident – on a CD mix that a friend had left at my house. The Tilly song on the disc was called Nights of the Living Dead and it instantly knocked my socks off.

I was hooked by its relentless drive, its manifesto-posing-as-lyrics and that tap-dancing stapling everything together. A parent-puzzler of the You Made Me Realise variety, I always thought it was a Teenage Riot of its day.

So I bought the Wild Like Children LP expecting more of the same. But it turned out Nights… was the exception, not the rule. Wild Like Children was kind of folky in parts. Slow to mid-tempo. For someone on the lookout for nine more Nights of the Living Dead it didn’t deliver and I didn’t get it. At least not immediately.

The truth is that actually it’s a cracking record. And as for those fast, fizzy numbers I’d expected, the band would go on to supply plenty of those on their subsequent releases.

2. The Freest Man (Bottoms of Barrels, 2006)

A great lyric about the troubles of the eponymous freest man is sung drily over an incessant, insistent and twitchy tune. This one’s inclusion came down to a last-minute battle with Pot Kettle Black which, on another day, could have won out.

3. All Kinds of Guns (Heavy Mood, 2012)

Brash, bratty, swaggering and dirty, this song from the band’s fourth initially-awkward-but-really-worth-sticking-with LP is terrific. The Spector/girl-group influence looms large from beyond the cell door, and the punny chorus is helped along, appropriately, by some great machine-gun drumming.

4. Falling Without Knowing (O, 2008)

Shimmering, shuffling and superclean, Falling Without Knowing gleams and glistens. This is Tilly in Space. It’s smooth as silk. Had her haircut allowed for headphones, it’s the kind of thing the formative Princess Leia might have listened to on her Walkman.

5. Let it Rain (Wild Like Children, 2004)

Perhaps an older sibling to Lost Girls (see Side 2), Let it Rain opens with a sly homage to Madonna‘s Into the Groove then develops into a haunting, melancholy number complete with boy/girl harmonies, flute and cello. Glasgow’s own Butcher Boy, really ought to have a crack at this one.

Side B

6. Tall Tall Grass (O, 2008)

A screech of guitar towards the close of this otherwise gentle and heartfelt song catches you unawares (although for new listeners I’ve rather given the game away now). A great opener to the economically titled O LP.

7. Sing Songs Along (Bottoms of Barrels, 2006)

The starting-gun scream will likely annoy you. But get past that and you’ll be treated to a joyful riot that doesn’t stop for tea even once. Its funny video shows the band gadding around in a gym. Let (let) Us. (us) Be. (be) Free! (free!)

8. Defenders (Heavy Mood, 2012)

Another earnest call-to-arms. Just like in the film The Wild One, I can imagine someone posing the question “Hey Tilly, what are you rebelling against?” To which the band would shrug “What you got?” Despite the rallying cries at its heart, Defenders actually sounds quite commercial in parts, but it makes the cut for its spirit.

Thicker Than Thieves from the same LP is probably a better song. Echo My Love is riskier and shows the group unafraid to progress considerable distances. But Defenders employs a children’s choir. And no, it’s not the one from Saint Winifred’s.

9. Blood Flower (O, 2008)

For its tempo changes and the kind of four-letter horticultural advice that you just won’t ever find on Gardeners’ World, the slightly nuts, subtly menacing Blood Flower earns spot number nine.

10. Lost Girls (Bottoms of Barrels, 2006)

My favourite from the Bottoms of Barrels LP – and favourite Tilly tune full-stop – is a slow one: Lost Girls. A beautiful song with a curious, autumnal, American-school-band-playing-at-parents’-night feel to it. You can almost smell the varnished wooden floor of the assembly room. It’s The Virgin Suicides, Molly Ringwald, The Wonder Years, Meadow Soprano, Twin Peaks, ghosts at the prom.

Hidden track: Echo My Love (Heavy Mood, 2012) – just to showcase a quite different sound and direction.

mp3 : Tilly and The Wall – Nights Of The Living Dead
mp3 : Tilly and The Wall – The Freest Man
mp3 : Tilly and The Wall – All Kinds Of Guns
mp3 : Tilly and The Wall – Falling Without Knowing
mp3 : Tilly and The Wall – Let It Rain
mp3 : Tilly and The Wall – Tall Tall Grass
mp3 : Tilly and The Wall – Sing Songs Along
mp3 : Tilly and The Wall – Defenders
mp3 : Tilly and The Wall – Blood Flower
mp3 : Tilly and The Wall – Lost Girls

mp3 : Tilly and The Wall – Echo My Love

JC adds……

“Had her haircut allowed for headphones, it’s the kind of thing the formative Princess Leia might have listened to on her Walkman”

And this one claims he/she isn’t a writer?????  What a magnificent sentence…..

Enjoy.

4 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #22 : TILLY AND THE WALL

  1. Excellent choices. Like you my first experience of TATW was night of the living dead it was on a moshi moshi cd compilation. After that I was hooked. Oh and your writing is just dandy.

  2. Never heard of this lot before, and currently only on the first track, which is really good. And as SWC your writing is very good. Or “dandy”

  3. You can’t have a Tilly compilation without “Bad Education” I would have had that as the opener, including it’s little intro, with “Nights” ending the compilation.

    As Strangeways says says, the majority of the first album isn’t as in your face as “Nights” but opener “Fell Down The Stairs’ comes close to it, and was usually as rowdy live.

    Tilly are one of my favourite live bands of this Century. I’ve seen them somewhere between 40 + 50 times, in the UK, Texas, Italy and Iceland!! They’re on hiatus just now but Derek performs with Icky Blossoms and Kianna is beginning to make waves as the vocalist for Yes You Are https://www.facebook.com/yesyouareofficial?fref=ts

    Hopefully YYA will reach the UK at some point, but I’m hoping for a SXSW appearance next year.

  4. I’ve been listening to the tracks for the past 5 days since Strangeways fired them over. Thoroughly enjoying them and linking them the more I get to know them.

    I can see me forking out money for their albums in the weeks and months ahead….

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