The 88

Over and Over

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    7
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L.A. power pop/rock never dies, it seems; it just slightly transmogrifies. So if the line of descent from Love to the Knack to Jellyfish to the 88 is more indirect and generalized than specific, the 88 are nonetheless heirs to a tradition, one that the band's sophomore album does little to disrupt. Over and Over starts off with a clipped riff followed by Keith Slettedahl's creamy/dreamy (and slight ghost of Marc Bolan) vocals, and by the time the band kicks in fully on "Hide Another Mistake," the band's many core strengths and unavoidable weakness -- simply put, the 88 bring terribly little new to the table -- are clear. Song for song, Over and Over is the bubblegum chewed because it's so familiar rather than because it's strikingly new: post-Beatles melodies here, glam swagger there, piano-led jauntiness courtesy of Adam Merrin everywhere (the unspoken roots of the band might actually be early Squeeze). That said, the members of the 88 are absolutely crackerjack at what they do, whether it's the big beat stomp and wailed vocal break on "All 'Cause of You" or the steady build in intensity of "Battle Scar," each verse and chorus seeming more powerful than the previous. Ethan Allen's production and engineering might just be the secret weapon throughout -- he makes the rhythm section of Carlos Torres and Mark Vasapolli sound massive while never drowning out Merrin's piano at the same time. The resultant balance of sound (and volume) makes for an immediately enjoyable listen, while the occasional curve balls add just enough variety as well -- there are the unexpected percussion breaks on "Nobody Cares"; the near-epic wallop and slow, measured stomp of "Bowls"; the tender acoustic guitar and vocals of "You Belong to Me." Over and Over won't surprise anyone -- but it entertains start to finish, flat out.

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