NICE AS FUCK – Nice as Fuck (Love’s Way EP): Great name for a pop punk outfit, but talk about wasting it on a trio featuring one of rock’s best leading ladies that is easily the flattest entry in her otherwise stellar discography. With any of her other collaborations, Jenny Lewis’s vocals either boosted whomever she was supporting (think Johnathan Rice, whose listenable but dull voice would’ve tanked half of I’m Having Fun Now had Lewis not provided compelling backup) or were bolstered by her comrades (think the Watson twins, whose lite alt-country tinge and similar vocal timbre paired well as a huskier alto to Lewis’s moderate soprano on Rabbit Fur Coat). Even if the instrumentation was sparse—as it is on “Black Sand” and “Bad Man’s World” from Acid Tongue—her presence was commanding, leaping out ahead of the music and guiding it rather than jumping onboard with a preordained composition.
But Nice as Fuck finds the opposite happening. The nine-song, 26-minute EP is almost entirely bass and drums (helmed by Erika Forster and Tennessee Thomas, whoever they are, who cares) interrupted only by the occasional wall of crappy keyboard. For some inexplicable reason, Lewis’s voice is washed in an echo that not only weakens it but makes it sound incredibly distant and detached. The songs aren’t technically slow tempo-wise, but because they have no energy they plod along because they have to. The EP is virtually without humor or even a moderately witty line and for some reason contains a half-assed protest song with a chorus that goes, and I’m not fucking around, “Crisis is not ISIS.” Forster and Thomas bring nothing to the table to supplement Lewis’s muted performance—in fact, it’s Lewis’s presence that half-saves these skeleton songs at all. Pray they get to slap that name on the cover of a full-length debut that sounds like they actually care, because while as rough drafts these songs have potential—speed them up a bit and add a splash of guitar and they’d be on their way—as final products they’re coarse as fuck. B PLUS (*)