Who Cares?: A cheap thesis on why you never checked out the Nice Boys, but should have
Glass P. Murder
Chock it up to target audience mispromotion, predetermined expectations, or sheer ignorance, but the Nice Boys debut didn't make nearly the splash last year that it should've.
Given that the band is comprised of members of the Exploding Hearts and the Riffs, two prominent Pacific Northwest punk revival acts, it makes little sense why the release was marketed away from the punk crowds that brought the Nice Boys name recognition, and instead slapped with tags like "indie rock," "arena rock," and "glam-rock" (though one might find soft touches of Gary Glitter in the single "Johnny Guitar"). The truth is that underneath the healthy production, goofy haircuts, and timely hot licks, the Nice Boys still encapsulate the punk elements of their past, albeit in a more padded shell. Case in point, take away the walking bassline and guitar soloing from "All Our Good Times" and the three-chord surf punk of the Ramones appears in fine form.
Of course, succeeding a band with such an awe-inspired cult following can be a difficult task, and when the Nice Boys first surfaced without the trademark energy the Exploding Hearts packed, many fans were unable to make the transition1. Stepping outside the band's lineage emancipates a perspective free of bias, and from this angle a more objective analysis can be extracted that might prove useful. If the only slightly muzzled energy of the Exploding Hearts could equate with an influence like the Buzzcocks, the Nice Boys would align in tune with a derivative like the Vibrators or Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
As others have noted2, the ill-chosen single of "Johnny Guitar" may have put off listeners who expected the entire album to be as cheesy as the tired, clap-along single. In all reality, the hook-filled opener "Teenage Nights" is a much better showcase of what the Nice Boys have to offer, with an upbeat rhythm and melody that may remind youngsters of their days sitting on the floor with their bowl of cereal, contently watching "Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers." The dreamy, wandering melodies in the opening measures of "Avenue 29" seem rooted in `60s hippiedom, but soon give way to a bouncy pogo rhythm which recaptures an even more luscious, pop-oriented melody. The pounding drums of "Southern Streets" makes the punk association undeniable, as lead vocalist Terry Six sings, "Trouble's in the alley / Baseball bats to your legs / Running down the alley / Running from the southern streets." Even the jacked Gary Glitter clapping beat of "Dugong Along" is held up by a fantastic `60s rebel-rock chorus and Chuck Berry-inspired guitar licks.
The Nice Boys succeeded in meeting expectations by not letting those expectations dictate what their final product would be. When two great punk bands from the Pacific Northwest came together, the upshot was completely devoid of stylistic adjectives. Simply one of the best releases of 2006.
1 - [http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/record_review/39063-the-nice-boys]
2 - [http://www.popmatters.com/pm/music/reviews/5781/the-nice-boys-the-nice-boys/]