Don’t you worry, baby,” Keith Slettedahl sang early in the 88’s Troubadour show. And that sentiment pretty much sums up the Los Angeles quintet’s attitude: celebrating the release of their third album “Not Only … But Also” (Island Records), the 88 is determined to keep hard times at bay.
Not that there’s any reason they should mope — based on the band’s 75-minute show, the 88 seem to be gunning for big things. Slettedahl, whose smile beamed throughout the evening, has a yearning, high tenor reminiscent of the Zombies’ Colin Blunstone, with Ray Davies’ phrasing; pianist Adam Merrin’s brisk playing adds a touch of the honky-tonk; lead guitarist Brett Farkas plays taut, jangly fills; and the insistent rhythms of drummer Anthony Zimmitti and bassist Todd O’Keefe create an R&B feel.
The songs from the new album are jauntily charming: “Go Go Go” and “We Felt Alive” bristle with the rangy excitement of adolescent sex, while “I’m Nothing” is the kind of prom-night slow dance that shows up during dramatic moments on teen dramas such as “90210.” They’re not much different in style or sound from earlier tunes such as “How Good It Can Be” but are more solidly constructed, with sharper choruses and stronger arrangements. And to show that the ambition hinted at by the album’s title is no idle boast, the band introduced a quartet of impressive new tunes, including “Love Is a Wonderful Thing,” a sweaty mid-tempo plea that sounds like Otis Redding filtered through the Rolling Stones.
The 88 returns to Los Angeles on Nov. 16, when the band opens up for the B-52s at Club Nokia.