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Released: 2001, Sanctuary Records
Angry Hank is back with his new band and still ready to split heads with his angry lyrics and almost misanthropic views. Graced with a hilariously self-deprecating back cover, NICE is a rollicking and varied album. It is also graced with a great production, courtesy of Rollins himself. The sound is sharp and clear, giving each individual instrument room to be heard. The real star of the show, as always, is Rollins himself, and he is on top of his game here. His biting vocals spew out his lyrics like venom, with particular vitriol saved for his usual targets (complacence, the establishment, weak people, etc.). It’s good to know that 20 years on, Rollins is still a viable lyrical force.
Musically, NICE covers a wide spectrum of sounds. From the straight ahead rocking of “One Shot” and “Gone Inside the Zero” all the way through the bluesed-up jazz of closer “Let That Devil Out”, the album never loses its focus, despite its varied nature. Indeed, variety is the key to NICE. The band is wisely not content with merely bashing ‘em out (though they do that quite well), but prefer to mix things up and present a challenge to the listener. Hence we get album highlight, “Up For It”, a bouncy, bass-driven hipster that features gospel-style singing backing up Rollins. Still, the album does seem to lose focus a bit as it wears on, as songs like “I Want So Much More” wander aimlessly, making you want to shout, “Goddamn it! Just fucking rock it!” at the speakers.
It will be very easy for an album like NICE to get passed over by the masses, despite its obvious quality. It’s simply not the kind of album that most people will latch onto quickly. Somehow though, I don’t think that Henry will give a flying fuck. He knows that he and his band have made yet another great record, so to hell with the rest.
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