Heavy Mood

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Released back in 2004, Tilly and the Wall’s debut album Wild Like Children was a collection of unpolished, folky reflections on growing up that had real charm.  Any accusations of tweeness that will naturally follow when you name your band after a children’s book and have a tap dancer instead of a drummer were allayed by songs of teenage drunkenness, sex and suicide played with a rough and ready lust for life. So, eight years later and four years since their last album, how does a group so rooted in childhood experience deal with hitting thirty and having kids of their own? If Heavy Mood is anything to go by, they don’t seem to know themselves. The lo-fi acoustic feel of the early records has long gone, replaced by a heavier electric sound, fleshed out with synths and drum machines. Attempts at rabble rousing politics sit uneasily with melancholic reflections on aging and the overall impression is a bit of a mess. The album starts by coming out fighting. The opener "Love Riot" is a dumb, one chord thrash, while the title track has its eyes on the dancefloor, recalling the electroclash movement of ten years ago. Both are full of vague notions of empowerment in the face of “the man”. “We’re not gonna fight their way” and ”You can’t bring us down, we got muscle, we are tough” they offer. Quite who’s trying to “bring them down” is a mystery. Perhaps while we’ve been worrying about members of Pussy Riot languishing in a Russian prison, we’ve missed an equally shocking abuse on freedom of expression going on in Omaha, Nebraska. Frankly, I feel we should be told. After a frenetic start, the pace slows down and the songs become a little more nuanced. It’s here that the old theme of looking back to childhood returns, though this time around it comes with a heavy tinge of melancholy. "Static Expression" is naggingly catchy, belying its lyrical reflection on inertia and aging, while the title of "Hey Rainbow" gives a completely false impression of an atmospheric, minor key strum with some wintery female harmonies. Meanwhile, "I Believe In You" is a piece of sparse electronica driven by skittering beats asking “Can we ever get home again? Can we ever get back to what we had?”. The album concludes by returning to the chest beating of the first couple of songs. On "Youth" they declare “Our bodies are strong, our minds are sharp, so in shape” and then "Defenders" commits the heinous crime of using a chorus of kids to deliver its snotty, up-yours message of “Can’t tell us what to do, can’t tell us what to be”. It’s a shame that they didn’t let the kids do a song by themselves instead, as they’d probably have come up with something more politically sophisticated. So, what we have here an album of two very different halves: one reflective, melancholic and riddled with doubt; one noisy, brash and absolutely certain of itself. The former would have made a pretty decent EP, while the latter is best forgotten.