MCA Records should be kicking itself right about now, because Latest Thing, for worse or worse, should be a hit. Not that much of it is any good, but hey, that's what's called quality these days. Its songs will fit nicely on KDGE-FM's playlist along with the dozen other bands that sound the same, none of which you could tell apart without fingerprints and dental records. Used to be, people slagged (or loved, strangely) the Nixons because they sounded too much like Pearl Jam. Now, singer Zac Maloy and company don't even have to aim that high, because as long as they can pass for Neve or Splender or Oleander or whatever band is briefly in heavy rotation, that's good enough. Surely, if you played Latest Thing for someone and had him guess who it is, he'd come up with a handful of other names before hitting on the right answer. Just try telling The Nixons apart from all the other bands on the bill at EDGE Fest; I've got a crisp 10-spot that says you can't.
Three albums down the line, The Nixons seem destined to always be the cut-rate version of whatever's popular at the moment. Too bad electronica didn't overtake modern rock as planned, because hearing Maloy spouting grade-school poetry in his baby-I'm-sensitive wail over the top of the band's bastardization of Mixman technology would be a treat. Good for a few laughs, anyway. As it stands, Latest Thing is exactly that, just the next in line, about 15 seconds from being forgotten. In fact, I've already forgotten it, or at least I think I have. I mean, it's hard to tell whether the songs I half-remember are from Latest Thing or one of the myriad discs sitting in a mail crate bound for the "New Arrivals" section of CD Source. Is "First Trip" by The Nixons or Collective Soul? Better wait for one of the jocks to back-sell it to be sure. Did "Nobody 101" make it onto Latest Thing or matchbox 20's last album? Too close to call.
It's that kind of confusion that will continue to make The Nixons' khaki-rock a favorite among the kids in the dorms and frat houses of SMU, the ones who like their music unchallenging, something they can still sing along with through a haze of malted hops and bong resin. That said, the group does come up with one marginal winner, "Blackout," a tangle of power chords and hand-clap drumming. The song finds The Nixons dumbing-down new wave in much the same fashion in which they added plenty of water to modern rock's mixture, while Maloy muses about the music biz: "Just when you thought you could fight this battle/They moved the Sunset Strip to Seattle." It's the most listenable song on the disc, if only because I've heard it about a hundred times before. And, apparently, will a hundred times again.