Sunday, January 15, 2006

The 88

When it comes to music, Los Angeles is known for many things. There are the post-punk bands, the hair bands, salsa artists, its own brand of rap music (which sounds the same as New York rap to me--like noise...), and a number of other artists in various musical genres. One thing it has not been known for is power pop. It should come as a surprise, then, that one of the best new power pop bands come from, well, LA. The 88 is a breath of fresh from many of the bands to emerge from the left hand coast.

Indeed, they sound more like they came from London or Manchester circa 1965 than they do Los Angeles circa 2005. They look the part as well, dressed in retro suits and thin ties (their look sort of remind me of Ray Brooks'character in The Knack..and How to Get It or, for that matter, the look of The Crazy 88s from Kill Bill, which might explain their name...). The 88 make songs that are bouncy, breezy, and rich with melodies. They effortlessly blend sounds from such diverse British Invasion bands as The Kinks, The Who, The Hollies, and, of course, The Beatles, with a touch of American power pop bands Big Star and Cheap Trick thrown in for good measure. After the angst and anger of so many post punk groups, alternative bands, and the Goth movement, The 88 are truly a breath of fresh air.

The 88 made their debut in 2003 with Kind of Light. With their new album, Over and Over, I am guessing that they are poised for superstardom. While their songs are bouncy and breezy in the way the Britpop bands were circa 1965, they definitely have a good variety in subject matter. "All 'Cause of You" is their token love song, sounding like The Kinks with someone other than Ray Davies singing lead. "Hide Another Mistake" sounds like a paen to theft, growing older, or both. "Nobody Cares," an acidic commentary on life, has a sound like The Who circa 1966. "Battle Scar" centres on a woman who has constantly wronged by men. All through the album there are sounds reminiscent of the era in which Beatlemania was born. This isn't to say that The 88 draw all their inspration from Swinging London era British bands. There is a touch of The Beach Boys, Ziggy Stardust, and Radiohead to their sound as well.

With bands like The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, and Interpol around, it seemed to me that power pop is undergoing a renaissance. With The 88, I have to say I am certain of it. Perhaps finally these kids today will stop listening to hip hop (Los Angeles, New York, it all sounds the same to me...) and start listening to music again. They could do a lot worse than listening to The 88.

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