Nanny in Levi's
I like to go to the cinema by day. It's mainly because of my fear and loathing for people, but I also like the idea of being the one or the few they play a movie for. So I try to see one as early in the day as possible, preferably in the morning. Being alone is not the only reason, I get a real kick out of stepping out into the light after sitting in the dark cinema for two hours. So, some sunny saturday in oktober last year I decided to go see Alien Ressurection.
The reviews weren't that possitive, but I had liked all three episodes before, so I thought why not give it a shot. Usually I wait as long as possible to miss most of the ads before the show, but this time I didn't and I set back and watched the standard crap they throw at you. A beer commercial, an advert for icecream, a pedantic commercial promoting the eating of apples (I kid you not), another beer commercial, a softdrink commercial and then it happened. An ad shot in the most painful collection of technicolors started bouncing across the screen. It looked like it was all set in the late fifties, early sixties, girls like barbydolls in dayglo dresses, boys as beachboys wearing lightblue and white jeans. A new commercial selling the White Tab Levi's. It wasn't so much what happened on screen that made my heart jump. It was the music! The images were accompanied by music I had never expected to hear in a cinema. It was Nanny in Manhattan by the Lilys.
I've known Lilys' music since 1992. Back then main Lily Kurt Heasly was as anyone in the early nineties still fascinated by the layered guitarsound of My Bloody Valentine and he made one of the few decent My Bloody Valentine rip-off records. In the presence of nothing wasn't so much a rip-off, but more a reinterpretation of the kind of music Kurt likes to fool around with. Lilys' second Eccsame the photon band was different altogether, adding more rhythmic structures and leaving the layered guitarsound. Half way 1995 a friend of Kurt, and also a friend of mine, Thom Monahan (formely bassplayer in Monsterland and producer of Scud Mountain Boys) sent me a tape of Better can't make your life better and that was by far the strangest record I heard that year. Lilys had gone back in time, back to the early days when people just started to listen to rock'n'roll, ten years after WWII. When people started to become happy again. Music for happy days. Kurt decided to fool around with the sounds of these times. In a way that figured. In the early days of popmusic there was as much experimentation going on as he's trying to do now in relative underground. I say underground, because by that time still nobody was interested in the music the Lilys were making.
At the end of 1996, Lilys decided to come to Europe to tour. But nobody had done any promotion for this band. So nobody came to watch. I did. I saw them play to a crowd of fifteen people in Eindhoven, while the five Lilys (among them Thom, whom I hadn't seen in three years) played their music as a soundtrack to Alice in Wonderland which was shown right over their heads. The setting was perfect and the boys loved it. Five people applauded.
And now half the world knows about the Lilys. In the UK alone hundredthousand copies were sold, shooting them up into the popcharts all because of a jeans commercial. I know it has happened before. If a song gets picked up by a company and ties it to a product, everybody suddenly seems to take notice. And I am happy for Kurt, finally his music is noticed, he maybe even get a good deal to do the next record. But at the same time I'm horrified, because this isn't about music. Nobody cares about the music, the people care about the pants. And his music hasn't got anything to do with pants. It reminds me of a thing that almost happened to the music of Nick Drake (singer/songwriter who has been dead and unknown for almost twentyfive years now and who made some of the most beautiful music ever). One of his songs of the last record he made before he died Pink Moon was used to sell a new line of NIKE shoes. After the very first showing the people owning the rights stopped it, just in time.
But this will happen again and again. In fact it already has. A commercial promoting the new Volkswagen Beetle is accompanied by a Stereolab song of their last record, one produced by one of the mice on Mars, Andy. May God have mercy on their souls.
I find it so disturbing people seem to be only interested in new challenging music if it's connected either to a film or a product and do not pay attention to what is being made outside of their narrow views. Turn of the radio! Don't look at MTV! Look for music, and listen! Just listen. You don't need pants, you don't need the shoes, you don't need the car, you only need your ears.
And maybe a recordplayer and a good set of speakers.