Lillix: Frank Ockenfels
Chris Willman
May 30, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Falling Uphill

Current Status
In Season

We gave it a C+

Much as Agent Smith was suddenly able to multiply himself en masse in ”The Matrix Reloaded,” Avril Lavigne’s new superpowers evidently allow her to clone herself several times over, into an all-girl quartet. Or so you might imagine after hearing the debut album from Lillix, a British Columbia group whose three founding members range from 17 to 19 years old (their new drummer is 23). Those tender ages belie an itch for Lavigne-style world domination, evident in their mercenary combo of killer hooks, crunchy (but tastefully mixed-down) metallic guitars, and pretty petulance.

The Matrix, of course, is also the name of the producer/writer collective responsible for such expert guilty pleasures as ”Complicated” and ”I’m With You”; they handle two tracks meant to recapture that magic on Falling Uphill. The distinctive Matrix sheen doesn’t exactly magnify their clients’ individuality, but at least in the team’s work with Lavigne and (forthcomingly) Liz Phair, some of the former’s essential sullenness and the latter’s signature subversiveness creep through. With Lillix, not a whiff of identifiable personality escaped the studio, even in tracks overseen by other mentors, like Glen Ballard and Linda Perry.

There is one terrific rocker buried late in the CD, ”Fork in the Road,” that’s everything you’d imagine a great Josie & the Pussycats tune would be. But mostly the layers of contrivance make it difficult to tell if, as girl bands go, Lillix want to be the Donnas or Wilson Phillips. Probably, they just mean to be massive. Not so complicated, right?

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