The 88: These locals have generated a fair amount of
attention in a short time, with a rootsy, classic pop-rock style that
borrows generously from the Kinks, the Band
and various other greats. In addition to their more storied influences,
the 88 occasionally recall Wilco, Cracker
and assorted other pop-literate smart alecks. But indie record-store shelves
and college radio waves are clogged with bands that emulate the sound
and vibe of the pantheon—they all stand or fall based on their material.
Fortunately, the 88’s songs are insinuatingly hooky; I haven’t
been able to get the best songs on their album, Kind of Light,
out of my head. “Elbow Blues,” the sun-drenched sing-along
“How Good It Can Be,” the rueful “I’m a Man”
(with its shades of the Dead at their honky-tonkin’
classicist peak), the bittersweet “Melting in the Sun” (with
its trippy refrain, “Doesn’t it seem/We broke it off too soon?”)
and the slammin’ “Sunday Afternoon,” for example, get
their hooks in and don’t quit. And the stately craft of the tunes
is offset by a buzzy, offbeat sensibility that manages to be psychedelic
without trying too hard. Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Keith
at times sounds like the winner of a Ray Davies
soundalike contest, but his voice combines yearning and grit in a highly
appealing way. Producer/muso Adam Merrin, who apparently
plays virtually anything that can produce a sound, contributes some very
evocative keyboards. You can catch the 88 at the Derby on April 17.
Simon Glickman