The latest self-titled album from The 88 since they toured with Kinks frontman Ray Davies is an impressive effort that succeeds in being accessible and keeping your attention glued to a pile of radio-ready singles. Lead singer Keith Slettedahl’s vocals strut along, a little Oasis styled arrogance go a long way to support Adam Merrin’s awesome piano melodies. Fans of Supergrass will find solace in the Brit-styled chord structures and impressive riffs. The opener “Center of The Sun” is a perfect example of a song that balances rock and roll with a shot of sugary pop. Davies even lends his backing vocal on “They Ought To See You Now” and it’s one of the best tracks – it layers guitars and Hammond organ flawlessly. One thing I’ve noticed is how much better the songwriting and composition is compared to past albums that may have relied more on studio wizardry.
It’s also the most consistent album so far, without a weak song to be found. The energy and hooks cram every nook and cranny from the anthemic “After Hours” to slower tempo work on “Hold On.” Even the slow acoustic “Takes It Away” catches the magic of a weary blues based love song. The second half of the album isn’t as immediate on first listening, but just as satisfying as it grows on you. I’ve read a few critics say that “nothing’s new here” but that misses the point. Power pop is not about innovation, so much as getting the basics right and the 88 do. Easy to classify this as one of the year’s top ten albums.