“Nifty” is a word I associate with 1950’s slang, a term referring to something good-looking, something fashionable or someone who has done something in a clever way. With a name like Nifty Breed I made an assumption that I’d be getting some finger snapping, clean cut doo-wop jammers. Instead, I was given a sample of shape-shifting hard rock, with a lead singer whose voice has the gravely quality of early Gavin Rossdale. His vocal cords sound ripped to shreds, or at least they might feel that way after he’s done using them. His words seem to scratch up the back of his throat on their journey to the surface of his mouth.
Nifty Breed initially struck me as professional garage band, mastering their craft in Long Island suburbia and appealing to the downtown crust of any given US city. But the more I listen to the full album, Keep Quiet, the more relevance I find in its tracks. I can imagine live shows are small gatherings of an intense fan following, and I’m sure they have groupies.
When Nifty Breed cools out on songs like “Nervosa,” the loud, chanting hook feels welcome and perfectly placed. The out of tune intro to “Bug Spray,” and the lyrics that will eventually follow, “You have won on a technicality/I have given up the game/Where did you buy your personality?/I will find out who to blame” strike a great balance to the track. The Doors-y, midlife Incubus feel of “Head Trip” keeps me coming back for more. If I was on acid and lying on the ground, listening to “Head Trip,” I might suddenly find myself waking up in the jungles of the Vietnam War, dazed but ready for action.
None of these songs are coming from a particularly happy place, so if you’re into sunshine lollipops, jump ship now. The next time I’m feeling callous and beat up, you may find me head banging around my living room, blaring Nifty Breed and air guitaring out. I can totally hear them played on a large scale or even on Eugene, Oregon’s Alternative Rock radio station, 97.9 The Q.
So, in the end, is Nifty Breed what I expected? No. But the boys have fashioned some clever music, and it looks good.