Pretty & Nice Get Young

[Hardly Art; 2008]

Styles: indie rock, indie pop
Others: Brainiac, The Unicorns, Squeeze

After roughly a decade of young indie pop groups heeding the postmodern call, crafting albums out of a mash of various pop fragments and styles, the particular nooks in the musical landscape from which those fragments are taken have lost their importance. Each new genre-mashing album now recalls previous albums in this vein as much as they do the original musical touchstones, while the many styles contained are subsumed by the whole, the distinctions between them becoming less important.

In this context, Get Young, the second album from the energetic Boston trio Pretty & Nice, registers less as a sum of influences and more as, well, just pop. The influence of past styles is clearly present, but there’s nothing self-conscious about its stylistic instability; no particular form is ever immediately identifiable. Rather, what comes across is a constant restlessness, an urgent desire to dash ahead and try something new. Sounds are picked up and then discarded as though the band no longer found them entertaining. At its best, all this makes for energizing, breathless stuff, carrying itself and the listener along effortlessly on its own enthusiasm. And that band name: it indicates nothing, as the band is neither particularly saccharine nor particularly nasty.

Nothing embodies the peak of the group’s approach better than the fantastic “Tora Tora Tora.” It pushes the irresistible thrust of its catchy-yet-unpredictable melodies and the kinetic force of its stuttering-to-soaring structure towards something approaching a mindless bliss. With its nonsensical lyrics — “The Japanese are singing “Tora Tora Tora”/ But I don’t understand/ The seaweed and the sand” — the emphasis remains solidly on the gut-level enjoyment of unpredictable forward motion. If it sounds uncomplicated, it’s only because the group pulls off constant rhythmic and melodic shifts with such ease that the overall effect is the sensation of effortless movement. Expertly doling out expectation and fulfillment straight through to the wonderfully inexplicable slowdown at its close, the song channels a multitude of sounds into a seamless whole.

The rest of Get Young can’t achieve the same level of ingenuity, though each song contains at least a few engaging moments; the band's aesthetic of constant change ensures that any uninteresting moment won't last long enough to irritate. If the album fails to reach the overall high of their self-released debut, it's probably due to a slightly increased sense of restraint. Their catchall approach doesn’t require restraint, however; what it needs is an unhinged engagement with each new form it integrates. The closer Pretty & Nice are to this practice, the better they sound.

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