After confecting ridiculously catchy songs for seven years or so — and insinuating them into a raft of TV shows and commercials — L.A. pop-rock troupe The 88 seems poised, at long last, to break into the mainstream. Their third and latest album, Not Only ... But Also, is their first for a major label, and much of it was produced by none other than Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.
Though pairing the king of slick, processed R&B with these tunefully offbeat rockers seems an odd notion, the collaboration was clearly an inspired one; The 88 have taken their flair for buoyant, propulsive melodies to even loftier heights.
The proceedings kick off in frenetic fashion with the manic single "Go Go Go" and never slacken; every track is a gem. Some highlights: the soaring "Love You Anytime," a glorious retooling of the bouncy "Coming Home" (previously heard on their sublime sophomore disc, Over and Over), the madly rocking "Sons and Daughters" and the surging "Waiting for the Next Drug."
Singer-guitarist-songscribe Keith Slettedahl, keyboard virtuoso Adam Merrin and their mates continue to refine The 88's intoxicating mash of kinetic power pop, Tin Pan Alley craft and psychedelic Americana. They even dip, with surprising confidence, into old-school soul on the grooving "Like You Do." If anything, their first "corporate" record finds this outfit throwing down with greater abandon than ever before.And in this age of economic panic, the band's decision to take the lavish label budget for the "Coming Home" video (see above) and simply film themselves giving the money away to strangers demonstrates that even if they don't achieve platinum sales, The 88 truly have hearts of gold. If you seek a stocking-stuffer for a pop-rock fan, you're unlikely to find a better choice.