The Like: “Release Me”
Talk about an extreme makeover: On the cover of new album Release Me, the members of The Like are all dolled up like they stepped out of a 1960s vogue shot; as an eye-catcher, it works wonders, but what’s really exciting is the truth in advertising. Yes, the band– now a foursome– is taking some cues from 60s garage rock and girl group harmonies, and they’ve come up with a record that’s infinitely more snappy and striking than their forgettable debut. If that album seemed to bank on the reputations of their famous fathers, this one rides the hot streak of their producer, Mark Ronson. He’s best known for producing Amy Winehouse, and there’s plenty of her soulful sass on display here, but this is hardly a retro soul throwback, sounding more like a cross between Camera Obscura‘s swoon-worthy girl-group harmonies and the garage-rock thump of Foxboro Hot Tubs. And if their exquisite beauty is sure to win over fans of the former band, it’s the latter who provide a more apt comparison, as The Like pulls off the neat trick of working almost entirely with vintage sounds but coming up with something so lively and effervescent, it somehow comes across as an entirely modern production.
Credit Ronson for leading them through all the right touchstones– from Costello-styled melodicism to playful Pretenders poses here and there– but mostly credit the band members for writing such a stellar batch of songs, every one of them a would-be hit single in some wonderful, alternate reality. Opener “Wishing He Was Dead” is a nasty, dark break-up song with spikes of carnival-esque organ that make it feel like a forgotten gem from This Year’s Model; the song goes by in a flash and spirals perfectly into “He’s Not a Boy,” a careening pop/rocker with a perfect hook and a tough-as-nails, sweet-but-snarky attitude to match. The rest of the record flies by in a similar rush of energy and hooks, slowing down only once or twice for breathers like the slinky, sexy 60s soul burner “Narcissus in a Red Dress.” The production here is flawless– neither revivalist nor revisionist, nodding to its 60s roots but not seeking to recreate them wholesale– but it’s the songs that stick, and make Release Me feel, already, like a great lost rock and roll classic.