Tilly and the Wall
Wild Like Children

Team Love

n three words, Wild Like Children sums up Tilly and the Wall’s aesthetic; they’re doing what they want, defying the rules, and unconcerned with the consequences. It’s their album and they’ll use a tap dancer in lieu of a drummer if they want to. You can almost picture them on the front porch, plinking on a glockenspiel, tapping on the wood beams, strumming acoustics and harmonizing about how they stayed out ‘til 4 AM the night before, eyeliner still caked under everyone’s eyes.

Tilly and the Wall are two guys and three women intertwined in the Omaha music scene, as neighbors, friends, former or current bandmates of Conor Oberst. That’s the first of several elements that could make jaded insiders want to dismiss the band before the first listen—Tap dancing? Another band from Omaha? Released on Conor Oberst’s label? Signing the band to his Saddle Creek-distributed Team Love could have been a sort of nepotism, but the quality of the music makes that theory moot. The harmonies are sincere, the tap dancing endearing, and the melodies addictive as candy. They defy convention and taunt confusion by having both male and female lead vocals. Instead of making the listener wish each singer had the guts to start their own band, the Tilly sound remains fresh and consistent.

Produced by Oberst and Steve Pederson of the band Criteria, Wild Like Children has an unpolished live energy about it, while still delivering spontaneous and celebratory sounding production. And, most importantly, they find a way to mix the tap dancing track exactly right. Add choruses of co-ed vocals and you have the happiest sound in indie rock since The Polyphonic Spree.

Despite so many joyous noises, it’s not all smiles and sunshine throughout. The contemplative lyrics often belie the carefree sound of the music. While there are plenty of references to midnight garage sales, dance parties, making out and fighting, they’re not having too much fun to stop being fatalistic. “You are born so fresh, a golden prize, until you scrape that knee and quickly realize that you’re lost in a fog on your way to death,” they sing in “Nights of the Living Dead.” Even Tilly can sing the blues, about heartache, ill-fated friends, and sinister ice storms. And, of course, the adolescent urge to defy authority is ever-present. They sing in “You and I Misbehaving”: “They’re trying their best to keep you down. We won’t let them win.” Their strategy to overcome? “You better speak up, better raise that voice…Let’s get wild, wild, wild. Let’s rejoice.”

That indomitability, paired with sincere singing and addictive melodies, is what makes Tilly and the Wall’s hipster Americana shine. These are snapshots of real life, if you’re an attractive twentysomething with a stylish haircut who lives next door to Conor Oberst. But the underlying depth of feeling is something we should all be able to relate to, inspired by their unflagging optimism. “There’s no cold can make us want to stay at home,” they sing in “Shake It Out.” Coming from residents who brave the sub-zero winters of Omaha, Nebraska, that means a lot.

Reviewed by: Krissy Teegerstrom

Reviewed on: 2005-01-20

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Posted 01/20/2005 - 10:56:02 AM by dankricke:
 splendid review. I wish I hadn't missed them at the show the Bright Eyes show they opened Monday. Oh Well.
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