The 88 – Kind of Light

The 88
Kind of Light

Good beginnings lead to good endings, sometimes, and on its debut album, The 88 strengthens that argument with fun, quirky guitar pop. The punchy opening track on Kind of Light, “All the Same,” starts with a few seconds of grungy guitars but quickly shifts to a vocally laid back song that spills Californian suns and lovely harmonies courtesy of The 88’s five members. “All The Same” has a spectacular chorus that evokes memories of Pet Sounds, though Keith Slettedahl’s lead vocals for most of the song sound much more like Ray Davies than any of the Wilson brothers or Mike Love.

“Afterlife” follows as the second track, and again, the harmonizing abilities of the quintet shine amidst stretched out, slow verses that fit an afternoon on the beach much more than an LA club at night. “How Good it Can Be” is more dynamic and penetrates your ears with pleasantly cheesy keyboards. Again, the chorus is magnificent, and the vocals are strong from all five members of The 88. It’s not common to hear five multi-instrumentalists sing with such range, but the chorus stresses high, captivating notes on statements like, “Leave it up to me / It’s a known disease / Keep it in your fleece / Don’t worry about the customs police, don’t / I’ll tell you just how good it could be this lazy summer.” Undoubtedly, “How Good It Can Be” is the highlight of Kind of Light, though this debut album does not lack great songs.

The title track is a sweeping ballad with more grungy applications and the volume raised to a new level. There is an elegant drone to “Kind of Light” that calls to mind The Kinks’ albums a decade into their existence. “No Use Left for Me,” with its country-rock sound, also recalls The Kinks, but nothing on Kind of Light is derivative of the Davies brothers and their mates. “God is Coming” and “Hate Me” tend to drag somewhat and lack the strong hooks of earlier tracks, but The 88 recovers with “Sunday Afternoon,” an energetic song with heavy drumming and sharp guitars. The rhythm section, which includes virtually the entire band, is particularly strong on “Sunday Afternoon.” The vocal diversity of the song is refreshing, at times loud and stomping, then slower and more tranquil, even reflective, with a fast, rocking finish. The closing track, “Hard to Be You,” returns The 88 to experimental Beach Boys/late Beatles territory. This slow, gentle song gives the band’s softer side additional exposure.

Although Kind of Light by The 88 will have particularly strong appeal to fans of The Kinks, loving the latter is not a prerequisite for enjoying this debut album by the former. The 88’s variety of instruments – wurlitzer, drums, accordion, alto saxophone, guitars of the electric, acoustic, and slide sort , just to name a few – complements its keen ear for pleasant hooks and warm choruses. The harmonies produced by Keith, Adam, Mark, Carlos, and Brandon are the strongest asset The 88 has going for itself. Kind of Light is an impressive, diverse album that emphasizes creativity and accomplished playing. This record may just complete your very late night party or lazy, sunny Sunday afternoon.