Every now and then a band comes along that reinvigorates the rock world. Sometimes it’s completely out of the blue, but arguably in most cases, such as with Los Angeles natives LIILY, it’s a steady climb that takes years: six, to be exact. Of course, between then and now they released a debut EP that felt nothing like a debut, so it makes sense that when their long-awaited inaugural full-length finally did arrive last month, it only continued in those footsteps. The result is TV or Not TV, a phenomenal effort that folks will likely be looking back on for years to come.
Much like I Can Fool Anybody In This Town before it, TV or Not TV is packed with many different layers throughout its 44 minute lifespan, making it extremely hard to pin down under any particular “aesthetic,” but even more so this time around. From shoegaze and grunge to post-punk and electronic to even jazz at certain points, no style or sonic territory is off limits for LIILY. What ensues is this glorious amalgam of grooving, frenetic goodness. Take, for instance, album highlight and immediate avant-garde masterpiece “The Suit That Sold Itself,” an intense tune that offers up a roaring back-and-forth between guitar and saxophone, in addition to syncopated cries courtesy of frontman Dylan Nash. Or consider the stoner jazz of the brief yet meandering “Monkey,” which boasts a riff reminiscent of early Queens of the Stone Age. Groove is the name of the game here. Even on the more melodic moments like “Anvil,” which channels The Bends-era Radiohead, or the smooth, saxophone-oozing highlight and album closer “I’m Glad When They Arrive and I’m Glad When They Leave,” there’s always an underlying groove, albeit subtle at points.
As a whole, however, TV or Not TV is the furthest thing from subtle. The vicious, driving “Man Listening to Disc” tackles apathy, while the bass-heavy buzzing of “I Am Who I Think You Think I Am” calls out the Q-Anon camp and the spread of misinformation. Elsewhere, there’s the punk-esque vibes of the driving “The Miracle of Race Wild” and the electro-tinged “Odds Are It’s Blue,” and also plenty of grunge, most blatantly present on the tone-setting opener “Mr. Speaker Gets the Word” and again on the album’s title track, the latter of which feels quite literally like the second coming of Nirvana. Perhaps the most fascinating characteristic of this record though is its recurring false endings: from mood-altering riffs on “Mr. Speaker Gets the Word,” to the spastic start-and-stop nature of “The Suit That Sold Itself,” to the vamping outro on “Monkey,” these Southern California rockers are taking everything you would expect from typical song structure and throwing it out the window. Again, anything but subtle.
TV or Not TV is one of those albums that not only blows your mind when you first hear it, but also sticks with you, forcing you to listen to it again and again. With thought-provoking lyrics, unsettling sonic dispositions, and this domineering sense of intensity throughout, everything LIILY does on the LP is intentional, from ideation to execution. Indeed, the quartet’s debut is beautifully jarring, making it an easy highlight of the year and one that many will come back to well beyond 2021.
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