The Like

Release Me

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    8
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In the time after the release of their 2005 album Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?, the Like lost a member (bassist Charlotte Froom), shifted record labels (from Geffen to Downtown), got a mod makeover, and most importantly, changed their sound from pretty but uninspired punk-pop to tough and exciting garage rock-inspired pop. The production of 2010's Release Me was handled (mostly) by Mark Ronson, and together with remaining bandmembers Z. Berg and Tennessee Thomas, he gets a very authentic mid-'60s sound with plenty of reverb, drums that snap, guitars that are light but crunchy, and an overall tight and jumping sound. The addition of wheezy old Vox organ (played on the record by Antibalas member Victor Axelrod) adds to the Standells-in-eyeliner vibe, and overall the Like sound energized -- nothing at all like their previous record. It feels like they're having a blast running through a set of witty and powerful songs that sound perfect for '60s dancefloors, rec rooms, and late nights alone in front of the mirror. Berg's vocals have a newfound snarling edge to go with the sweetness; when she puts you down (as on “I Can See It in Your Eyes”), you stay down. Her delivery on rockers like “He’s Not a Boy” and “Fair Game” has a bite worthy of a long-haired garage rat. She also shows the dynamics of a classic girl group vocalist on the more melodic tunes like “In the End” and “Walk of Shame,” and emotes with real soul on the slow tracks like “Narcissus in a Red Dress.” It’s a virtuoso performance that is matched by the rest of the band. The bass (played here by Phantom Planet's Alex Greenwald) is fluidly nimble and Thomas pounds the drums with vigor, but also shows admirable restraint when the occasion arises. The band (which now includes organist Annie Monroe and bassist Laena Geronimo, who feature prominently on the cover but joined after the album was recorded) plays like it would be great in a live setting, especially since the production -- which along with Ronson is provided by Greenwald and, on a couple songs, Homer Steinweiss -- sounds like a well-recorded live set. Release Me wipes away any memories of the Like's previous work as well as any boring talk of their famous fathers, and re-introduces the band as a first-rate purveyor of thrillingly fun rockin’ retro pop.

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