Monday, January 26, 2015

Before The Attention: Lilly Wood And The Prick Had An Impressive Debut With Invincible Friends

The Good: Some impressive lyrics, Moments of voice, Moments of music
The Bad: Some derivative vocals, Short for a deluxe album
The Basics: My curiosity got the better of me and I’m glad: Lilly Wood And The Prick’s first full album, Invincible Friends is well worth checking out!

For the last three weeks, I had a song stuck in my head. The problem for me was that I had only heard the song twice – both times in the car – and I had no idea who sang it . . . or even any of the distinctive lyrics. But, I remembered the bassline/basic tune and the way the song made me feel and it got pretty well-ingrained in my subconscious. So, when I was out at the post office at the middle of last week and the distinctive guitars of the song burst out of my radio, I was a little pissed that I had to get the package mailed right then and that I did not have a pen in the car to catch any of the lines I was finally catching. The line I got right-enough was enough that when I returned home, a simple online search came up with the song. The song is “Prayer In C” . . . or, more accurately, the remix of “Prayer In C” by Robin Schulz. I also felt a bit ashamed for the song getting stuck in my head; the repetition is entirely banal in Schulz’s remix (and the video has to be one of the worst music videos I have ever seen, relative to the content of the song/lyrics).

But, hearing the Robin Schulz remix of “Prayer In C” was enough to get me to look up the original . . . and from there, I had to hear the full album that it was on. The album is Invincible Friends and it was the first full album by the duo Lilly Wood And The Prick. And it is an impressive debut. Under the subtitle of “life is too short for less content,” I picked up the deluxe (bonus) edition of Invincible Friends and that is the one I am so enthusiastically recommending.

With fifteen tracks (fourteen songs – one is a demo of the group’s first single from Invincible Friends)and 55 minutes of material, Invincible Friends is an impressive debut that is ironically weakened more by artists who have come after Lilly Wood And The Prick, but have had greater commercial success in the U.S. The duo provides their own lyrics for most of the songs (on the bonus version, “L.E.S. Artistes” at the very least is a cover song), as well as their own primary vocals and the essential instrumentals.

Musically, Invincible Friends falls into a very small category of albums that have a diverse musical sound that does not sound haphazard. Unlike many experimental albums where musical artists try out several different styles of music and the album sounds like a (pretty terrible) collection of singles, Invincible Friends sounds like a cohesive album that has evolution and flow, making for a cool, diverse musical experience as opposed to a musical mess. So, the song “Little Johnny” has a 1960’s Folk sound to it, “Down The Drain” is pure Emo pop, and “Prayer In C” is a haunting ballad. What surprised me most about Invincible Friends (coming to the album with only a remix and a single in my mind’s ear) was how much Lilly Wood And The Prick rock. Opening with the tracks “Hey It’s OK” and “(No No) Kids,” the group sounds like it is producing works more akin to the less-produced sounding tracks by The White Stripes than a folk band. The trippy “Hopeless Kids” sounds like more produced Hem. Despite the prevalence of rock and roll songs, Invincible Friends manages to use a number of instruments outside the simplistic guitar/bass/drum combo many expect from a guitar-driven rock group. The use of the flute on “Prayer In C,” for example, is pretty awesome.

Vocally, Lilly Wood And The Prick is dominated by lead singer Nili Hadida. Hadida has a pretty impressive vocal range on Invincible Friends and that is where the album has a little bit of a problem. Hadida does not enunciate well, for one thing. Singing on “A Time Is Near,” I had to look up the lyrics because is sounds a lot like she is singing that she only goes so far as to not get raped (she’s actually singing “framed,” not “raped”) . . . but that changes the meaning of the song quite a bit. Beyond that, her vocals never find a consistent pattern or distinction. She sounds like A Fine Frenzy on “A Time Is Near,” Lana Del Ray (“Cover My Face”) and Jewel on more than one track (“Go Slow,” especially). Hadida has a nice voice, (outside “L.E.S. Artistes” and “Little Johnny” all her vocals sound like an unproduced, unaccented human voice) but the lack of clarity and the lack of a distinctive voice to separate her vocals from so many others makes it a little harder to want to follow up on listening to Invincible Friends.

That said, Lilly Wood And The Prick have a lot to say on Invincible Friends. In fact, at their most potent, the band makes powerful social and religious commentary that is so poetic, yet obvious, that it left me aghast that someone could so miss the point of “Prayer In C.” With haunting simplicity, Hadida sings “And see the children are starving / And their houses were destroyed / Don't think they could forgive you / Hey, when seas will cover lands / And when men will be no more / Don't think you can forgive you / Yeah when there'll just be silence / And when life will be over / Don't think you will forgive you” (“Prayer In C”) backed by a simple guitar and a flute accompaniment that can still give me chills after listening to the album more than eight times. One need not be religious to enjoy “Prayer In C” – I choose to interpret it as a ballad that speaks to truth to power, as opposed to appealing to an absent or destructive deity.

The social commentary is not limited to one song, thankfully. Perhaps the reason that Lilly Wood And The Prick did not break-out in the U.S. with Invincible Friends was that their first single was too smart. With lines like “Break me off, tie me down, tear me down / Make me feel like a little dog / Why don't you rape me now, when you hit me now / Make me feel like I'm nothing at all / I wait for you, wait for you to kill everything I have inside” (“Down The Drain”), Lilly Wood And The Prick articulate personal angst impressively. The song is not an invitation; it is an exhortation of frustration and an acknowledgment of how bad a relationship has gotten and it is powerful (in both versions that appear on Invincible Friends).

Lilly Wood And The Prick have a beautiful sense of imagery as well as social and personal commentary. On “Water Ran,” they create a clear mental image with their poetics: “Water ran / Through your door and mine / I know / It's too late to say I would have liked to know you / I know / So I stare at the walls of my green green kitchen / I stare at the doors of my empty mind.”

Usually, I try to come up with a strong and weak track. In the case of Invincible Friends, I found that to be too difficult (I even like both versions of “Down The Drain” and think they stand up beautifully on the album!). Outside not being wowed by the last minute of “Hymn To My Invisible Friend,” there is no real weak track. This is a pretty wonderful album well worth devoting one’s attention (and dollars) to.

For other intriguing (full) debut albums, please visit my reviews of:
Glowstars - Heather Nova
Tidal - Fiona Apple
The Uninvited - The Uninvited


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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