The 88 pull out all of the stops on their latest CD, Over and Over. They gratuitously dig into the universal pop collective, showing influences from the late 1960s to contemporary fare. From my first listen to Over and Over, I could tell that the 88 had all of the prerequisites for a great pop band. Every song seems meticulously constructed to meet pop standards. There are great melodies, and flawless vocals and harmonies on every track. The first track, “Hide Another Mistake,” is an instantly gratifying, upbeat tune that begins with a tight guitar and drum intro, speckled with a few bass guitar glissandos for good measure. The Marc Bolan-ish (ala T-Rex) vocals play like a finely-tuned instrument, complementing the rhythmic backdrop. After this song finished playing, I immediately checked to see if lead vocalist, Keith Slettedahl was born on September 16, 1977, the same day that Marc Bolan died. Slettedahl’s vocal style on Over and Over has got to be more than coincidence. “All ‘Cause of You” is a mid-tempo, bouncing ballad that has equal parts rock, swoon, and jangle. I can imagine that the live version of this tune is a killer crowd pleaser, especially with the ladies. A quick glance into the audience in the direction of a group of receptive ladies at the right time during the opening verses…
I've been sinking through the drain of love
lift my eyes to skies of up above
listen to me this is how I feel
since I knew you all my thoughts are real
you're the only one I wanna do
and it's all ‘cause of you.
…is probably like fishing with a stick of dynamite. “Bowls” has a groovy arrangement that utilizes space and showcases Slettedahl’s soaring glam rock vocal style. This song owes its fundamental catchiness to Carlos Torres’ melodic McCartney-like bass lines and Adam Merrin’s psychedelic keyboard work. This sounded like it could possibly be a remake from an old T-Rex album or a hidden track from The Velvet Goldmine soundtrack. “You Belong to Me” is an atmospheric acoustic that extols the power of love over the imperfections of the lovers. Slettedahl’s sings:
I could tell an antique lie
full of all the things I want to hide
but that would only lead to the truth
you belong to me I belong to you.
The acoustic guitar intro in this song is a direct lift from Big Star’s “The Ballad of El Goodo”. I wasn’t sure if this was done in homage to Big Star, or if it was done because their fan demographic wouldn’t know anything about Big Star or Alex Chilton. I’ll give The 88 the benefit of the doubt since both songs are thematically similar. Nevertheless this is a great acoustic number.