It's gotta be sweet to see the front-row girl with faded dyed-pink hair and X's on her hand turn to her friend with a definite "fuck yeah!" expression and shout, "This band is awesome!"
But it's even better when that reaction takes a ripple effect through a nearly sold-out Middle East downstairs during an opening set for super-buzzy Freelance Whales. At nine o'clock, houses are rarely packed, and faces are never forward, but Pretty & Nice got both and killed accordingly in their Cambridge show on December 9.
"Sometimes you have to do all the work, and sometimes it's a collaborative effort," said singer/guitarist Jeremy Mendicino. "That's when it matters at all. Otherwise it's just us dancing around; it's us doing a monkey show for people."
But even when they have the crowd support, it is something of a monkey show. Pretty & Nice jerk around stage as malfunctioning singer/guitarist Holden Lewis punctuates progressions with tip-toed guitar attacks. Mendicino pairs funny faces with a perfect-posture vocal delivery. It's as if the two were restricted to a 2D plane of acute angles that somehow delivers as an awkward grace.
"There is a boundless positivity to these new songs," Lewis says of the material they presented, which is slated for release sometime this summer. "Before, there might have been an angst. Now, there's a joy-for-all-type thing."
Get Young (2008) was a hook-fraught derivation of basement punk and '80s new wave blanketed in Pretty & Nice's neurotic attention to detail. It stepped through parts at an alarming pace and hardly allowed an idea to settle before beginning another. Their new songs are by no means a departure, but they are slightly less helter-skelter and more upbeat.
"I've given up on cajoling what should be a natural process," says Mendicino, referring to the painstaking six-month period of recording Get Young. "The reason we make music is because we enjoy making music. Why would we do anything that takes away from an experience that brings us satisfaction?"