November 15, 2001

Nice System "Impractical Guide To The Opposite Sex"

I don't know why Northern Europeans tend to gravitate towards gentle pop music. You know, music that's friendly, reserved, and slightly shy, and rather sunny in a cold way. Maybe it's because the weather's awful cold, or maybe it's because their society seems to be awfully reserved and slightly shy, but Northern European pop sure is subtle, quiet, and rather sunny (black metal notwithstanding). If it weren't for Euro-friendly labels like Radio Khartoum, bands like Nice System would never be heard outside of their native lands.

Nice System is, indeed, nice. Very rare is the band that actually lives up to its name, and, thankfully, Nice System are indeed a nice group of musicians who are making slightly warm, literate pop music. Sure, to be fair, their influences are easily recognized--a little Beach Boys here, a little Bee Gees there, a tablespoon of Bacharach, and, to make it interesting, a pinch of Stereolab and, what's this, maybe even a dash of Christopher Cross and Air Supply? Not that imitation is a bad thing at all---in fact, more gentle, heart-felt music seems to be what this world needs now.

From the ba-ba-ba's of "We Sing Ba Ba Ba" to the strumming "Sleeping By a Building Site" and the lounge jazz of "Did I Do Wrong," the album travels back and forth through gently-made pop and jazz, with the occasional experimental foray---but without ever breaking the general down-tempo mood. The only time the group ever picks up the pace is in the final song, "Elevator Disco Express," which, ahem, sounds like what Kraftwerk would sound like if they made elevator-music versions of their greatest hits.

Impractical Guide to the Opposite Sex is a record best enjoyed on a lazy, hazy, slightly cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in December with the boy or girl of your choice. With boy and occasional girl vocals, occasional instrumental pieces, whistling, and lightly strummed acoustic guitar and softly-played keyboards, this is a soft, sensual makeout record that is pleasant and lovely enough that you wouldn't be embarrassed to play to your great Aunt Martha.

Impractical Guide to the Opposite Sex is for lovers; while not so much a "guide" as it is a "soundtrack," Nice System clearly want to glorify the feelings of being in love. You can't help but feel like you're in a world where love rules, everyone's attractive, and you're all gonna get laid. Mix it in with the Beach Boys' Sunflower or Friends for some pleasant pop sedation, and I'm pretty sure that listening to this with that special someone would be a lovely half hour of "quality time."

--Joseph Kyle

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