Poor Lily - Poor Lily (Cover Artwork)

Poor Lily

Poor Lily (2011)


Do you remember the American hardcore scene of the 1980s? No? Neither do I. However, I do like the music. All the "important" bands–Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Minutemen, the Replacements–all seemed to use a similar starting point (okay, maybe not DK) and then go their own way. Some became noise acts; some became harder; some became softer; but as CIV said, "Hats off to bands that change."

Poor Lily's first album–a product of 2011–represents the very bones of this album, reflecting the innovation, invention and heart of those 1980s hardcore bands–which makes sense, given they have members of Sick of It All and Murphy's Law. They use a hardcore feel as a starting point, but this is jazz punk at its heart, and at its very best. The singer/bassist Adam Wisnieski has a passing verbal delivery that akin to D. Boon–occasionally wandering into Jello Biafra and/or blues-ier territory–and many of his basslines are certainly Watt-ish.

Everything is played with great attention to detail and with sincerity. The drums are busy as hell, but straightforward enough so that everything makes sense: keeping everything together and tight, driving a hardcore intent into everything, no matter how technical the music or obscure the idea. The guitars are meaty, and blur between hardcore precision and jazzy chords and riffs, intermittently straying off into some impressive noise, or going a bit metal. The songs twist and turn hither and thither, spiraling into the odd group chant, or just winding up into an intense burst. It all sounds like the veins on their necks are standing out.

Then there's the production. Almost every other single record you'll hear this year will have a more academically impressive sound–the band will sound tighter, the guitars crunchier, shinier; the bass rounder, engineered; and the drums will sound more like a hand slapping a piece of plastic; all with a more clinical mix. Like it is sterile. Fuck all that. This record sounds alive: It sounds like they went and played this live. There's vibrancy and pure enjoyment in the playing of this record; frequencies seem to be wild, all over the place. Fuck compression. This sounds like an album from the 1980s because they haven't compressed everything to shit and been afraid to sound like a real band.

Poor Lily's album is a reminder of how vibrant the noise coming out of the hardcore and punk scenes can occasionally be: innovative, inventive, interesting. There are moments of straightforward hardcore here, but they're disrupted by an endless stream of ideas. It is for the best, really. It's not shoegazing, it's not pretentious, but it's not straightforward or cliché. It's just fucking loud and interesting. Thank fuck for that.