The 88. That is one of those band names that is a nightmare for shelf stackers at record shops. Is it a ‘T’ or an ‘E’? I hope they remember because there might be a few inquiries for their new album Not Only… But Also.
Los Angeles has much cause for recommendation. It’s the traditional centre of the film industry, a lot of stars make it their home, it always looks sunny on the television, and it has a band called The 88. So why call yourselves The 88? The 88 what? The answer is revealed on the band’s official website. There are 88 keys on the piano, 88 constellations in the sky, 88 mph to get Back To The Future, 88 cities in L.A. (is there?), and 8 is the most auspicious number in China. Got it?
Two previous albums, 2003’s Kind Of Light, and 2005’s Over And Over, have amply illustrated their potential. Not Only… But Also underlines it. On all three they manage to seamlessly blend the best of melodic American rock, with classic pop and Brit invasion bands.
Their members have clearly absorbed all the best elements and their style is best summed up by singer, guitarist, songwriter Keith Slettedahl who says on the band’s website, "In the end the thing that ties all our songs together are the melodies. Everything we do has that unifying element".
Too right. There are melodies on Not Only… But Also that have you wondering why, when you consider there are only 88 keys on a piano, they haven’t been written before. With the songs on this album you can see why a major player like Island have chucked their not insignificant weight behind them.
The 88 show us that the three minute radio friendly song is alive and well and living in L.A. The trio of Keith Slettedahl, keyboard playing songwriter Adam Merrin, and drummer Anthony Zimmitti, have, quite probably, come to your notice before. Their well crafted songs have been used on The OC, Gray’s Anatomy, Laguna Beach, and many others.
Their mixture of old and new, rock and pop from both sides of the Atlantic, moves effortlessly through the high energy up-tempo post-punk opener “Go Go Go”, to a heartfelt ballad with “No One Here”. The latter of which, sees them create an emotion and keep pouring on some more.
“Love You Anytime” and “Coming Home” draw nicely on sixties British pop sounds. The catchy “I’m Nothing”, the glam Bowie styled “Sons And Daughters”, gently step it up again, whilst never losing sight of a hook. This ability to write a song that reels you in is apparent throughout and particularly so on “It’s A Lot”.
A sudden unpredicted switch to some funk on “Like You Do”, leads into a gentle, and impossibly smooth “Save Your Breath”. The impressive “Waiting For The Next Drug” leads to the album closer “We Felt Alive” which wraps it up with a trademark blurring of styles.
Not Only… But Also will please a lot of people whilst pushing the band onward and upward. The band write to their strengths whilst appealing to a cross section of listeners.
With this album, The 88 are tapping, with arrow precision, right into melodic airplay territory. Below the surface lurks a band who can step it up but they will never lose their ability to write a good hook laden melody. Not Only… But Also has plenty of them.