There is a lot you can say about a band who has made three albums with a tap-dancer as their main percussion. I had a chance to see this live at Wakarusa this year, but unfortunately Kansas did what its most famous for and threw us a late afternoon storm that included rain, hail, and high winds. And so it was, the set was canceled, and my good friend (a fan for about four years now) disappointed. Life did work itself out however since Tilly and the Wall today come out with a new album – giving my friend and I something to make due with.
O is a much more aggressive record than their previous work with songs like Pot Kettle Black adding a Yeah Yeah Yeahs element to the sound. Also new for the group is the addition of other forms of percussion, notably a drum kit, and is more keyboard intensive. The bulk of the sound for Tilly, however, remains their signature up-down guitar strumming, tap-dancing, harmonizing selves that got them on Letterman in the first place.
The lyrics remain personal, using descriptive elements to tell a story, which is a technique that the Tilly has embraced through out each album. The songs never get too dark, as the band can be noted for remaining positive in their sound; with songs that are some of the most hopeful that I have heard in a while.
Like Pot Kettle Black, the eighth track, Falling Without Knowing is a step in a different direction, but this time they chose a more new wave influence than gritty rock like before. This song, coupled with Blood Flowers are about as dark as the band gets as they cry out you better watch what your doing, dont go fucking around in the garden. Starting with a sassy tap dance solo, Too Excited is a punk rock inspired ode to kicking-ass and taking names, and as the last track is another example of how creative this five-some can be as they break away from their traditionally peppy flower rock.
For a band as unique as this, I hope the original use of a tap dancer for their percussion is kept throughout their musical career. While they do have the ability to write songs that venture away from this style, it seems to me that they are stretching for some pop recognition, and this could be harmful to them in the future, as pop success can kill a good indie act as fast as it can make it popular. Songs such as the opener Tall Tall Glass and Jumbler tastefully alternate percussions that enhance Tilly and the Wall in a positive way, while taking the listener back to their previous records. Chandelier Lake is another positive example of growth that works. Still with tap-heavy backing, guitar distortion adds for further depth, including a short spikey solo. Dust Me Off follows suit, this time adding a talk-box for style points.
Overall, this is a well-done album for Tilly and the Wall. For the most part they stuck to their guns as they have before, for a comfortable sound that fans can really appreciate. For the interludes stepping into new territory, some worked, and other didnt, but lets hope they dont step too far for next time.