As sharp and instantly likable as the Lilys' new The 3 Way is, it doesn't really start to make sense until you think of it as the '60s-pop-influenced equivalent of a funk record. Not that there's any mistaking singer, songwriter, and guitarist Kurt Heasley for Leroy "Sugar" Bonner, but they do work with something of the same formula, just using different elements. Instead of reworking grooves from mainstream R&B, Heasley throws in grinding, early-Kinks-worthy guitar riffs, uses an organ as a punctuation device, and leaves the floor open for just about any noise that wouldn't have sounded out of place on most English albums released between 1965 and '69. What makes The 3 Way more than an act of homage is its avoidance of traditional song structures. The crunching guitar that opens the album sounds like it came from a lost Animals 45, but what follows quickly strays from the formula. "Socs Hip" and "Leo Ryan (Our Pharaoh's Slave)" both stretch over seven minutes and snake through more time signatures than an ELP song. But neither sounds self-indulgent in the process; they simply sound like they're helping Lilys take an old style to new and interesting places. Though most of the songs run under three minutes, that inventive approach is the same for nearly all of The 3 Way, a dream of a Top 40 past that sounds wonderfully, vitally current.
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