The history of rock n' roll is, of course, the sound of white guys trying to sound black. Over the past fifty-plus years, this has taken on many sounds, from Elvis Presley to the blue-eyed soul of The Righteous Brothers and, later, Michael McDonald through the surprisingly credible modern stylings of Justin Timberlake.
One such strain was "Maximum R&B," and its practitioners were the Mods, sharp-dressed working-class London kids who lived for James Brown, Motown and amphetamines. The sound was characterized by power chords, gritty vocals and manic drums. Think of the early hits by The Kinks, The Who, The Small Faces and you'll know what I'm talking about.
Enter The Makes Nice, a San Francisco-based trio that draws upon the influence of those seminal bands on their debut CD, "Candy Wrapper And Twelve Other Songs." With 13 songs clocking in at 31:30, the CD hurries by at a blistering pace, with only one song breaking the three-minute mark. But The Makes Nice replaces the brash snottiness of their influences with sweet pop melodies and harmonies, so the result sounds less like the first two records by The Jam and more like early-90s Boston popsters The Cavedogs. Try to imagine Big Star's "Radio City" album but with vocals by The Byrds.
All three musicians; guitarist Josh Smith, bassist Aaron Burnham, and drummer Jack Matthew are exceptional musicians who negotiate the off-beat changes with aplomb. Smith rips off a number of hot solos while Matthew pounds away with the gleeful intensity of Keith Moon. Like most power pop bands, the lead vocals could be a little more precise, but they tend to sort themselves out by the time the harmonies kick in. Anyway, that's just nitpicking when you're dealing with songs that are as fun to listen to as this.
You can stream "Candy Wrapper And Twelve Other Songs" here.