The cynics are going to have a field day with The Like. Three young, photogenic girls from LA, they’re the daughters of a famous record producer (Crowded House producer Mitchell Froom, who used to be married to Suzanne Vega), Elvis Costello‘s regular drummer and, most damningly of all, an A&R executive at Geffen Records – who they just happen to be signed to. So is this a case of nepotism run rampant?
Well, while there’s no denying that the trio’s backgrounds have given them some handy publicity, there’s enough evidence on Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking to suggest that they would have got this far on talent alone. It’s an accomplished debut that’s likely to appeal to The O.C. generation as well as the slightly older listener who can recall their all too obvious influences.
For The Like hark back to that era where every jangly indie band seemed to be fronted by a winsome, husky female – the age of The Sundays and Belly. In fact there are several tracks here that would suggest that Harriet Wheeler’s old band have reformed and are trading under a different name: check out the introduction to (So I’ll Sit Here) Waiting or the wistful loveliness of We Are Lost.
They know how to write a killer tune as well – previous singles June Gloom and What I Say And What I Mean are both masterclasses in fuzzy guitar pop, with the latter being particularly infectious. There’s a winning melancholy to the songs here that never crosses the line into maudliness – indeed, Z Berg’s vocals are spunky enough to recall icons such as Chrissie Hynde or Polly Harvey.
Former Prince cohert Wendy Melvoin (of Wendy & Lisa fame) lends the album a polished production, but she keeps a raw edge to the songs which works well. Those who only know Melvoin from her work with Prince may be surprised.
If there’s a problem with this album, it’s one that’s shared with a lot of debuts. All the stronger songs – both the singles, and standout tracks such as Bridge To Nowhere and (So I’ll Sit Here) Waiting – are crammed at the front of the album, leaving the second half seemingly a bit bereft of tunes. At fourteen tracks, it’s also a bit too long, although it’s nice to hear their version of Split Enz‘s One Step Ahead again.
Tracks like Mrs Actually and Waves That Never Break have got the air of filler about them, and if they’d been cut it would have made the album a punchier affair. The songs have a tendency to sound a bit similar after a while, and Berg’s voice, although pleasant, isn’t strong enough to keep the attention through the whole album.
Yet the album’s highlights far outweigh the more average moments, and there are enough signs here that The Like are going to be around for some time to come. You’ll probably like The Like (sorry), but there’s probably not enough here to love them. Given time though, the spark that’s evident here could well turn into a full blown infatuation.