Recording information: BY Studios; Cliff Jumpers Studio; Soulpower Studios; Tal Bergman Studios.
Photographer: Steven Taylor .
It's been well over a decade since 98ø had an album, a decade that let the band disappear from the spotlight and ease back into it without any observer being upset by their resurgence. Only Nick Lachey wound up establishing himself outside of the group, thanks in large part to his marriage to Jessica Simpson -- he was briefly subsumed by the relationship but, once it ended, he wound up as an affable, self-deprecating celebrity presence -- and most remember the band's existence more than their hits. The 2013 reunion album 2.0 doesn't really change this situation. Certainly, it nods at contemporary trends, just enough so this doesn't wind up as needless nostalgia, but it splits the difference between fads and old-fashioned pop, happy to integrate nagging melodies, ingratiating rhythms, and slightly persistent hooks. Unlike the two recent post-reunion New Kids on the Block albums, which alternated between hardcore R&B and sticky sweet adult contemporary, this album walks the tightrope of nostalgia and modernity, a record that may (but may not) appeal to thirtysomethings and teens alike. The great knock against 2.0 is that there's nothing that's undeniable, no song that sucks skeptics into its vortex, but it's ingratiating in its low-key charms, never asking for attention but rather expecting the admiration of anybody who pays attention. And they're right -- if you take the time to listen to 2.0, you'll enjoy it, because the band works it hard, never pushing boundaries but never resting on their laurels, either. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine