Cougars - Nice, Nice (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Nice, Nice (2003)

Go Kart

As of now, the Cougars album will probably not make most of your "Top whatever" lists of 2003… simply because you haven't heard it. I am here to fill you in so that you may make a truly informed and correct list of the best music produced in the last year.

"Ok, enough of your blathering," you say, "what the hell does this band sound like?!" Well that's just it – they sound like nothing you have ever heard, or if not to go so far, their sound is a combination of things you have never heard together before. This Chicago band is eight guys, providing a wall of sound. Let's add it up:

Take an over-the-top rock n' roll outfit with two gritty, fuzzy guitars, clanging bass and hard-hitting drumming on a kit of huge-sized drums and cymbals 7 feet in the air.

Add synths, but subtract the cheese. This is synth for texture and for another layer, not for a melody. They are squawking and squeaking, blipping and bleeping synths, adding to the fuzz and the wall of sound.

Then add horns, but subtract any notions you might have of happy-happy ska melodies. The duo of trumpet and alto sax adds another coat with lines that are often syncopated and dark, and always biting. They sometimes take the lead, but usually are just a part of the whole.

Then put in the vocals to top this all off. The lyrics are weird and maybe creepy, if you can understand them (which I often can't), but you can tell they are badass, like in "She Can Wear Gold" when he yells things like "Just shuuuuut your moooouth!" "Make it riiiiiiiiiiiiiich!" and even yelling "Cougars!" this guy just rips. He yells – not like many bands these days, who scream softly into a mic turned way up – this is downright yelling from the throat. It hurts to listen to at first, but the guy seems to have the capacity to do it on a regular basis. And boy does it rule.

So this all equals the Cougars. It's a band that's not big on melody, they just layer and layer the hard rock on thick. Nice, Nice is full of great tunes, my favorite being "Mustard is Pissed." You can't go wrong when the band pauses to let a yell of "…but we're here to rock and ro-ooooooll!" (insert a gruff falsetto voice into the second half of "roll" for the full effect). "Kelly Has Sweater Breasts" has a kick ass ending with the guitars and drums sustaining to let the horns and synths kick it into high gear with some sweet counterpoint, leading the song into a powerful breakdown. The last track, "Duke's a Champ" rules too, from its galloping start to a sudden tempo change, to the cymbal chokes, to a free-time drum solo, all with a techno-like octave part in the synths… it's all good. This is not a perfect album, but I can't really put my finger on why. Either way, Cougars' Nice, Nice is guaranteed to be a breath of fresh air. Breathe deep.