Nice | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Nice are an Australian trio with a low profile and a high level of artistry. Led by Randall Lee and Susannah Stuart-Lindsay, they've inherited the Australian songwriting throne vacated by the late, lamented Go-Betweens, who delivered some of the most literate and well-crafted songs of the 80s. Nice display a similarly lean low-key lyricism on their two records, Nice and Appie Pie (both on Chicago's Feel Good All Over label). Often bucolic and plaintive rather than slick, their sound has the doleful sweetness of the best folk music. Yet a probing intelligence lurks beneath the homespun veneer. Apple Pie, in particular, displays a striking range: "My Perfect Fire" glides irresistibly by with the carefree charm of a sailboat on a bright June day, while "Cunning and Sly," with its loping 6/8 meter, is a tuneful cautionary tale of death disguised as pleasure. Avoiding the trendy stylistic obsessions that sometimes afflict American alternative rock, Nice stick to a basic, unadorned bass-drums-guitar (often acoustic) format that's occasionally seasoned with organ, sax, or marimba. Though Lee and Stuart-Lindsay sometimes collaborate, they generally write separately. Her tunes are usually propulsive and busily strummed, while his are more laconic, with sinuous melodies, an offbeat meter here and there, or a ragged bossa-nova tempo. Lee's equally excellent side project, Ashtray Boy, will also perform. Sunday, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

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