The word “nice” is a milquetoast descriptor, conjuring images of scooting your way through life with a lot of pipsqueaked “Excuse me”s. Of course, there's the Guns N' Roses treatise on the subject, “Nice Boys,” in which Axl howls that “Nice boys don't play rock 'n' roll” — but these days you can't be too sure about that, since timidity appears written into the rulebook for more than a few acts. All that pleasant behavior can make a listener pine for some good old-fashioned attitude.
Portland's Nice Boys have little to do with GN'R — 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. — Jennifer Maerz