It has been five long years since the release of The Like’s debut album Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking? and it has not been an easy time for the girl group from Los Angeles, medications California.
The release of their impressive debut was tainted by an unforgiving press that refused to overlook the fact that lead singer Elizabeth Berg’s father is a former Geffen Records producer and bassist Charlotte Froom’s father was the drummer for Elvis Costello. Despite generally positive reviews, there was a feeling that many believed The Like only got a record deal because of their parent’s influential connections. Various line up changes and a painfully public break up involving Berg and a member of Razorlight have meant that creating a sophomore album has been more difficult for this group than most.
The new and improved quartet, now featuring Annie Munroe and Laena Geronimo, have undergone a major transformation both musically and aesthetically. Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking? wonderfully moody indie gems June Gloom and You Bring Me Down have been replaced by a collection of 60s girl group anthems, created with the help of the painfully hip soul revivalists Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. The ladies also look the part with an elegant vintage wardrobe and matching hairstyles. Their new album, Release Me, shows that The Like has not only progressed since their 2005 debut, they have essentially recreated themselves.
The album opens with Wishing He Was Dead, a seductive femme fatale narrated tale of a woman scorned. Berg warns her straying lover “I just can’t forgive and forget” and you get the sense that whoever she is talking about better watch out. The mood is set with the aid of classic funk organ touches and British invasion era guitars that will have you tapping along whether you want to or not.
Walk of Shame’s wonderfully explicit narrative depicts the regret of going to a party only to wake up the next morning in someone else’s bed with fragmented memories of the night before. The beauty of this song is that it will strike a chord with anyone who has made the same mistake but manages to skilfully avoid the pitfall of being sexually gratuitous. Lady Gaga, take note.
There are only a couple of blemishes on what is essentially a well executed retro girl group record. The first appears on When Love is Gone as the guitar riffs fall foul of vintage pop, sounding like some misguided attempt at high paced bluegrass with accompanying lyrics that are so obvious they appear to be written by a naive teenager. How this made the final song selection is a complete mystery as it just doesn’t seem to fit with the style of the album at all.
In the End is an equally painful listen due to a laughable chorus that states: “The world is upside down and we’re walking on our hands.” It may be an infectiously simple sing along anthem but the shallow theme and unimaginative lyrics show a rare moment of weakness in Berg’s song writing ability.
Fortunately these flaws are remedied on Narcissus in a Red Dress, as Berg tells the tale of a friend that steals her lover. The delightfully wicked pop song ends with Berg advising, “High school skinny fades away.” Only Lily Allen can execute this kind of bittersweet storytelling with the same level of wit.
Unsurprisingly, the album was produced by Mark Ronson, an obvious choice considering he has become the ‘go to guy’ for artists wanting to make a commercially successful retro record. Regardless, Berg’s incredibly candid storytelling means that you are unlikely to hear a more fun pop rock album all year.
Categories ,60s, ,album review, ,california, ,Girl-Groups, ,L.A., ,pop, ,Pop-Rock, ,The Like, ,vintage
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