I find comfort that there’s a generation of kids – yes, kids, all born in the eighties -- that have a such a knack from writing and performing rock music. Their formative years saw a wasteland of music that ranged from bad (see Brittney Spears) to worse (see Backstreet Boys) and the biggest thing in rock was Fred Durst and his Limp Bizkit. No wonder that these kids had a yearning to return to the punk and new-wave sounds that were around when they were gestating in their mothers’ bellies.
The new new-wave (new squared?) was on full display last night at the El Rey in Los Angeles. Hometown darlings The Like played their first true headlining show and rounded out the bill with Mellowdrone and Simon Dawes. I’ve been a fan of the Like for a couple of years – ever since hearing them as teens perform on Morning Becomes Eclectic. Now, a lot of people will tell you that this girls are a product of rock and roll nepotism. Lead singer/guitarist Elizabeth “Z” Berg’s dad, Tony, is a producer and former A&R guy from Geffen (the band’s label.) Drummer Tennessee Thomas’s dad, Pete, banged the skins for Elvis Costello and The Attractions. And bassist Charlotte Froom’s dad is Grammy Award-winning producer Mitchell Froom. Not a shabby pedigree. But there’s certain proof that the girl’s gleaned a thing or two from their dad’s.
Their sound is somewhere between early Pretender’s and Blondie (Z’s breathy delivery reminds you of Debbie Harry.) The Like are first and foremost a pop band, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe in the music. Just listen to the Clash-inspired opening strains on “Under The Paving Stones” from their debut release ARE YOU THINKING WHAT I’M THINKING. The song also offers their signature clean bass line and simple drums. It’s songs “Stones” and “Falling Away” that will bring the band indie-rock credibility, yet afford them pop success like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. My only reservation is that where Karen O commands the stage in live performance, these girls need to loosen up a little bit.
What I like about Mellowdrone is that their look is as eclectic as their sound. The lead singer/guitarist looks like the nebby Jay Baruchel from Undeclared. The drummer looks like a corn-fed center for the Indiana Hoosiers. The bassist like a greaser from Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. And the keyboardist/backing vocalist hid behind cropped black hair much like Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. Their sound reminded me at times of Beck, Depeche Mode, and The Walkmen, and it was a good set. Definitely interested in hearing more about these kids.
I only caught the second half of Simon Dawes set. I like what I heard especially the show stopping cover of “BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE”. The Talking Heads classic was probably lost on the predominantly under-25 crowd, but proves that like all the bands on the bill, they have good influences and that there’s some good things happening on the LA music scene.