Lili Haydn has lent her silky violin tone to the likes of Tom Petty, Hootie and the Blowfish, The Rolling Stones, Tracy Chapman and even playing the classic “Kashmir” for Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in concert. On Lili, her debut album, Haydn does her best to mix her classical background with her love of rock, pop and dance music. For the most part and much to her credit, Haydn not only wrote the majority of the songs but also played violin (well, duh!), sang, produced and handled some of the programming.
The result is a mixed bag filled mostly with tasty treats. The sour apple, for me, is the lyrics. “Stranger” has a great, funky beat with lots of violin accents, but the lyrics tell the story of a “pretty teenage baby [who] has a baby of her own” and who “strips for strangers to keep her baby satisfied.” Gee ... never heard that platitude before! Then there’s the pretentious and cloying single “Take Somebody Home.” While the song is full of sonically pleasing textures, pop-rock melodies and a very cool Mideastern- meets-symphonic feel, the lyrics are rife with politics and social hand-wringing about the homeless, making me wonder how many homeless people have enjoyed a stay at the Haydn household. And then there’s her voice ... it’s nice, but despite lots of obvious work done, it really is a bit thin to compete with all the dazzling aural delights whirling about these tracks.
But that’s the bad, at least for a crusty geezer like me. Now for the good. “Someday” mixes a quirky oriental melody augmented by pizzicato strings with nice cello and a wall of distorted guitars. Weird bass and chunky, distorted guitar highlight “Real,” a song which culminates with a mysterious and powerful instrumental orgy of rumbling bass, violin, and eerie guitar. Violin accents abound in the haunting ballad “Baby,” and the dramatic “Daddy” is perhaps the pinnacle synergy of classical and rock on this album, ending in a glorious symphonic mini-movement. Also very good are the two instrumentals. “Salome” allows the violin to finally step to the forefront, floating in melody above an ethereal façade of dark dreams and regrets. Much more classical in tone is “Wants Deep,” a six-minute violin and piano duet that opens with lugubrious violin and ends with a passionate and striking flair.
Overall this is a very solid album. The musicianship is dead-on and the arrangements are quite inventive. Unlike the mind-bending debut album by 100 Watt Smile, where the violin is integral to the song, socking it out with the guitar in bow-to-pick trench combat, the violin parts on these sophisticated rock songs are more for added color. Still, those bored with the radio should find plenty to enjoy off this creative debut album.First published in 2003 in WhatzUP.