"Love Is The Thing" / The 88
A band has to be good to carry off opening for Ray Davies. Come on -- you know a packed house full of antsy Kinks fans cannot be an easy audience. But still, this peppy L.A. band pulled it off surprisingly well on Ray's last solo tour. The 88 (that's the number of keys on a piano, the number of constellations in the sky, the symbol for infinity, and all sorts of other deeply significant meanings) harks back to classic British beat pop, but with an indie edge. They're so cool, they even recorded a single on their iPhones -- to wit:
Okay, I have to say, I could care less if they recorded this song on their iPhones. Nevertheless, it's a bright little pop number, with that insistent keyboard hook, and lead vocalist Keith Slettedahl has a very appealing voice. It's a four-man group, principally Slettedahl and his high school buddy Adam Merrin, who does the keyboards (the band's sound relies VERY heavily on those poppy keyboards -- Slettedahl tends to switch back and forth between guitar licks and vocal phrases), with a changing roster of other band members over the years since they formed in the dark ages of 2002. This is one of their newer numbers, coming from their 2009 CD This Must Be Love, but that sassy tunefulness runs through all four of their albums.
I can't quite put my finger on which British band this most sounds like -- Small Faces? Zombies? The Searchers? (there's a definite "Love Potion Number Nine" resemblance). The lyrics are almost negligible, just several giddy iterations of how fab love is. "Love is the thing, the thing you ought to try / The thing you ought to try / No need to ask me why. . . "
The iPhone gimmick proves these guys are smart and ambitious -- they've backed everybody from the B-52s to the Pixies to Smashing Pumpkins, and their songs are all over TV, with "Coming Home" being used on Target and Sears commercials and "At Least It Was Here" being the theme song to the NBC comedy "Community." (Oh, so that's who does that song.) There are a lot of busy little pop groups out there right there, busting their humps to be big stars, and I can't be bothered to keep up with them all, not with all the classic tunes occupying my gray matter. I have my standards, after all. These guys, though -- I'd say they've got a good chance of making it.