Is it time to care about the Like again?
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So let’s get the skepticism out of the way. Well connected and well financed, the Like were the can’t-miss Los Angeles band that missed. The band’s 2005 Geffen release “Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?” came and went without impacting the U.S. pop chart, its power-pop gloss and teenaged romanticism leaving a burned-out trail of hype in its wake. Doomed, the band seemed, to forever live on the periphery of the L.A. music landscape, performing the occasional gig to an audience heavy on industry scenesters. If they were even that lucky.
Though the Like’s debut packed plenty of wistful melodies and jangly guitars -- even the act’s harder songs, such as “What I Say and What I Mean,” were more pretty than edgy -- the band’s story was one that inspired dubious looks. After all, the father of lead singer Elizabeth Berg is well-known industry A&R man/producer Tony Berg, and it was no secret that pops had been an exec with Geffen.
But all of that? Forget it. The Like disappeared, got a makeover and toughened up.
Now hurtling toward her mid-20s, Berg’s once potentially cloying vocals today come with a side of scruff, and a new song like “Fair Game” is two-and-a-half minutes of whip-lash bliss. It’s here that a shout-out must be given to newcomer Annie Monroe, whose vintage organ brings the cut’s garage rock strut to the dance floor.
So yes, Berg is still using the letter “Z” as her stage name, but I’m not holding that against her, and neither should you. Not as long as she’s cracking out tunes as sharp as “He’s Not a Boy.” She’s cool and matter-of-fact, but her band is ready for a pep-rally, albeit one from another era. Drummer Tennessee Thomas and bassist Laena Geronimo craft a rhythm built for handclaps, and a shout-along bridge should have audiences resurrecting retro dances like the Watusi.
How to explain the new sound? Perhaps producer Mark Ronson had something to do with it.
Those who read the British tabloids may recall he was romantically linked to Thomas, and he manned the studio on the band’s upcoming LP “Release Me,” due June 15 from Downtown Music (Gnarls Barkley, Kid Sister). One may certainly wonder just how much of an influence the Amy Winehouse collaborator played, as he brought in some pals from Sharon Jones’ band the Dap-Kings -- Tommy Brenneck, Homer Steinweiss and Victor Axelrod -- to flesh-out the Like’s new ‘60s-inspired attitude.
We’ll have plenty of opportunities over the next few weeks to see how it all goes down live. On Saturday, the band will perform at the Glass House in Pomona, part of the smashing bill for the FYF Fan Appreciation Show. Then starting May 10, the Like will begin a four-week Monday night residency at the Echo (free!). Finally, on June 19, the Like will have a proper hometown record release show at the Troubadour in West Hollywood (not free -- $12).
For a band that once toured with the Kings of Leon and Muse, hitting the freebie club circuit is more or less starting at ground zero. So if you see one of the ladies at the Hyperion Tavern, where the above video was filmed, buy her a pint to toast new beginnings.
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