March 25, 2010

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The 88, This Must Be Love
88 Records, Nov. 23, 2009

Having been summarily dropped by Island Records after a too-short one-LP trial, this Los Angeles Britpop foursome has every right to be as bummed as you may have heard. True, the Raspberries-flavored corn syrup isn’t laid on as thick as before and it’d be difficult to picture obedient neo-yuppie metrosexuals downloading this into their iWhatevers and dancing like they don’t have two brain cells to rub together; there’s not enough Beatles/Kinks here for that. And despite the happy-go-luckiness of Austin Powers-ready opening track “Go to Heaven” the album ends with an off-puttingly morose curveball, “Who Is This,” an almost self-parodying joint where their trademark disposable lovey-dovey lyrics are delivered in low-voiced slo-mo, a clear message that their patience and energy are running out. Can’t blame them either — with their songwriting The 88 should be bigger than they are, not OK Go-sized, but respectable, and if they weren’t from soulless L.A., where long-term relationships last five minutes, I’d venture that this was simply a foothold-finding mission: the record has a foggy, wider, Wilco-ized edge similar to French Kicks. Thing is, The 88 are big into French Kicks (who are unquestionably their betters for the moment), so only time will tell whether this is a real turning point or a simple copycatting swan song. They’re still getting background-spots on TV shows and some dream opening gigs, thus the jury must remain out for a few months. B+ —Eric W. Saeger