Folk artist Dan Bern once sang, “There’s no such thing as the missing link / Aliens came and fucked the monkey.” While Bern was waxing humorous, claiming there’s no other explanation for `pay at the pump,’ archaeological evidence has proved otherwise, despite numerous attempts at obfuscation (my new favorite is the aversion that God put dinosaur bones in the earth as a test). The Nice Boys, the musical equivalent of Piltdown man, have recently proved there’s a missing link in rock and roll, albeit like Piltdown, somewhat of a pieced together bit of chicanery, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Terry Six, the only survivor of the tragedy that befell one of the most promising punk bands of the modern era, the Exploding Hearts, has picked up the pieces and formed the Nice Boys. While the Hearts had their feet planted firmly in the sights, sounds and smells of 1977, the Nice Boys seem to straddle eras like a major league pitcher at the mound. Rather than throw directly at the plate, they’ve put one foot north and one south of the rubber to throw off the runner and make a play at first base. The north foot is a slight step forward from the late 70’s, into some kind of `missing link’ middle ground between punk and pop, like a bridge between Mick Jones fronted Clash and Big Audio Dynamite. The opening track, “Teenage Nights,” is an example of that early ’80s sound, found in the rawer debut albums from bands such as the Knack or the Cars. In fact, most of the songs on The Nice Boys could easily fit into the soundtrack for Cameron Crowe’s 1982 film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, lying somewhere between the new wave sounds of the Go-Go’s and the Cars and the guitar churning muscle of Billy Squier.
The southern foot goes between the early ’70s glam glory of T. Rex and the mid to late ’60s rock experimentalism of the Beatles, as can be found in songs like “Avenue 29.” “Dugong Along,” while somewhat stealing from both the title and style of “Get it On (Bang a Gong)” also mimics that later Clash sound. “Ain’t That Beat” nearly lifts the opening guitar riff from “Please, Please Me” but eventually the song finds its own footing. There’s something about each of the songs on this debut that seem like they were recorded by a group of high school friends jamming together for fun, without a whole lot of practice or instruction, but a love and passion for rock and roll music. That passion comes through in every guitar chord and drum beat, and even in the extremely imperfect vocals.
At first listen, the Nice Boys seemed a little undisciplined, raw and without polish. But isn’t that what rock and roll is really all about? Like the missing link between the human and animal worlds, the Nice Boys are both primitive and a brilliant discovery. Of course, Piltdown man turned out to be a forgery, an ape’s jaw combined with a human skull, but the Nice Boys are anything but a hoax. Instead, think of them as the ingenious men behind one of the most classic bits of art ever created, a piece of art that would have scientists in awe for over forty years.
Cheap Trick- One on One
T. Rex- Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow
Sweet- Desolation Boulevard