Schizophrenic musical transformations indicate careerist impulses more often than they do creative restlessness, and on paper, the shift between the Lilys' Eccsame the Photon Band (Spinart, 1994) and last year's Better Can't Make Your Life Better (Primary) looks a lot like the former. Kurt Heasley, the band's leader and sole constant member, abruptly abandoned My Bloody Valentine for the Kinks--and neither stylistic blueprint is particularly original. But actually listening to Better reveals a different story. Heasley masterfully stitches pillaged bits from countless 60s sources into an infectiously propulsive patchwork, held together by his own monster pop hooks and his current band's remarkable sense of swing. While his high, whiny vocals are pure Ray Davies, behind them are Paul McCartney bass lines, Monkees guitar lines, smidgens of the Zombies' formal grandeur, and rich harmonies that fall somewhere between the proto-soft-rock of the Association and the pastel psychedelia of the Byrds. Through some alchemical grace the band never sounds like a composite of these influences so much as a vibrant reimagining of them. Heasley spent some key time in Denver a few years ago jamming with members of the Elephant 6 collective, the folks behind imaginative neopsychedelic pop bands Olivia Tremor Control and the Apples in Stereo. The Lilys aren't as ambitiously baroque or as original as those bands, but Better has proved to be one of the best blasts of pop rock I heard in 1996. Friday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Lilys photo by Brad Miller.