Perhaps not since the Horrors morphed from obnoxious noisemongers to moody melodists on their second album Primary Colours has a buzz band so effectively and drastically reinvented itself on a sophomore release as have L.A.'s the Like. While the girl group's 2005 powerpoppy debut album, Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?, was a promising enough start, their recently issued follow-up, Release Me, is a vast improvement. The five-year gap between albums has obviously helped the girls--who formed the Like while barely in their teens--mature into accomplished women.
Recorded in Brooklyn with producer Mark Ronson (known for his retro-soul work with Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones), and featuring playing from Tommy Brenneck and Homer Steinweiss of Sharon Jones's groovy combo the Dap-Kings, Release Me boasts an unabashedly '60s ready/steady/go mod sound, which goes well with the Like's new Mary Quant/Twiggy-ish image. But despite the vintage vibe, Release Me is no regression. Ironically, by looking to the original girl groups of the Spectorian past and classic British Invasion bands for inspiration, the Like actually sound fresher than ever before.
Release Me is basically the perfect mod-pop malt-shop soundtrack; listening to this, it's impossible not to imagine mini-skirted mobs of mods and rockers scooter-rallying down Carnaby Street to some cool cavern club to see the Like play, where they would all of course frug, pony, mash-potato, and shimmy in earnest to the fizzy Farfisa organs, jangly guitars, and sassy, sugary harmonies of "Wishing He Was Dead," "He's Not A Boy," and "Catch Me If You Can."
There have been some major, almost Destiny's Child-like lineup changes that are likely responsible for this dramatic makeover: While core Like members Elizabeth "Z" Berg (daughter of Geffen A&R exec Tony Berg) and Tennessee Thomas (daughter of Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas) remain, with Z. still doing most of the songwriting, ex-member Charlotte Froom (daughter of famed record producer Mitchell Froom; pictured right) has departed, replaced by two new fierce femmes, Laena Geronimo and Annie Monroe. Additionally, despite the band's obvious family ties to Geffen, the band has now decamped to the hipper label Downtown Records, home of Art Brut, Cold War Kids, Eagles Of Death Metal, Justice, Kid Sister, Lissy Trullie, Miike Snow, and Santigold.
So the Like is pretty much a whole new band (they described themselves as "The Like 2.0" when they first announced these changes on their MySpace page), and since it's been five years since they first made the scene--an eternity in the pop music market--they're truly starting fresh. But sometimes change is good. Because there's nothing not to like about the new Like.
Check out the new-and-improved Like's far-out video "He's Not A Boy" below, and compare/contrast it to the old lineup's performance from when they visited the Y! Music studio way back in 2005.