Tilly and the Wall's third album, O, is no great departure in sound or level of energy from their previous two; however, there is an unfortunate dip in overall quality that can be traced to two factors. First is the disappearance of Derek Pressnall's vocals. For some reason, he provides backing vocals on a couple songs, sings co-lead on "Cacophony," and only steps to the forefront on the album's highlight, "Alligator Skin." Coincidence? Probably not, since a huge part of what made Tilly and the Wall as good as they were was the charged interplay between his vocals and those of Neely Jenkins and Kianna Alarid -- it gave their unhinged tales of busted hearts and desperate youth a fully rounded perspective. O is mostly told from the point of view of Jenkins and Alarid, and while their angelic voices have plenty of charm, they only tell half the story. Pressnall being mostly absent reduces the effectiveness of the band's sound and mutes the emotional impact of the songs. Secondly, there is an electric current of anger running through the album that threatens to run the project right off the rails. On songs like "Pot Kettle Black" and "Too Excited," the lyrics and voices are hateful, spiteful, and not much fun to listen to. It's a huge change from previous albums that were more about telling stories and conveying the drama and queasy thrills of young love and life, not about venting uncomfortably. No doubt the members responsible for those songs are angry and have every right to express it in song; it's just not what Tilly and the Wall do best. These are tough obstacles to overcome, and though the band manages to capture some of the wildness and freedom of its first two albums from time to time ("Alligator Skin," the swooningly pretty "Chandelier Lake," the '80s album rock-inspired "Dust Me Off") and the amplified-taps-as-percussion gimmick still works wonders, the album falls short on too many accounts to be a success. In fact, there is the unmistakable air of manufactured drama throughout, and unless they figure out how to recapture some of their original inspiration, the next album may end up being a disaster. As it stands, this one just squeaks by on the power of some very good songs and their typically energetic performances.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra