The Nice Boys

On the Guns 'N Roses song "Nice Boys," Axl howls that "Nice boys don't play rock 'n' roll." He obviously hadn't heard these Nice Boys. Still, the Portland-based band has little to do with GNR's bad-boy aesthetic. The band, comprising ex-Exploding Hearts guitarist Terry Six and members of the Riffs — would rather lean on Richard Hell than raise hell, mixing its influences (the Heartbreakers, Cheap Trick, and the New York Dolls) for an album's worth of downtown lovin' and losin'. While the Exploding Hearts lived up to their name with powder-keg pop songs and playfully snotty asides, these Boys shiver in the shadows of their glam-punk predecessors. Six's vocals are too detached from the emotions they profess, as if he can't really commit to any of the passions that supposedly inspired these songs. Occasionally a flicker of a hit warms the cool remove — tracks like "Dugong Along," with its punchier pace, background handclaps, and "get out of my life" dismissal, offer some semblance of teenage kicks. But the vibe is more languid than lively, and a more animated lust for life would have gone a long way.

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