A content analysis of reviews written in U.S. publications regarding Puffy AmiYumi indicate the Japanese pop duo is just the right antidote needed to ail rock music cynicism.

What. Ever.

Truth is, Puffy aren’t so much anti-idols as much as they are idols for people who hate idols. The former term would indicate some degree of overt antagonism against the concept of idolism. The latter term suits a situation accomodating subversion of idol ideals.

In other words, Puffy ain’t no rock band — they’re a pair of idols.

The good news is Nice., the band’s third album in the US (its 10th in Japan), finally lives up to the press lavshed onto Ami and Yumi when they first splashed down stateside.

Producer Okuda Tamio may be reknowned for his work back home, but with Puffy, all he did was dress the pair in pastiche. On Nice., Puffy ropes Jellyfish’s Andy Sturmer into the producer’s chair, and he delivers a genuine, harder sound.

The change is evident right from the start. “Planet Tokyo” unleashes a bank of guitars that would make Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo proud. It’s easy to imagine some post-teen male singer whining his way through “Invisible Tomorrow”, but it sounds far better fronted by Puffy.

“Your Love Is a Drug” dabbles a bit in the vintage influences of Puffy’s past but keeps its feet squarely in the now with that aforementioned big guitar sound.

When the band does indulge in evoking past decades, it doesn’t sound as thin or forced as on Spike or An Illustrated History.

“Sayonara” steals the best bits from the Byrds, not the whole damn thing. “Thank You” has a nice psychedelic feel but doesn’t lose its sense of wonder.

In fact, Puffy sounds best on such slower songs as the Beatles-like “Angel of Love”, or the country-influenced “Shiawase”.

There are some missteps — “Long Beach Nightmare” is a bit too perky, while “Tokyo Nights” is both insanely catchy and infinitely cheesy.

Still, it’s nice to see Puffy finally deserve the adore it initially generated. Nice. is a confident and appropriate title for this album.

Who knew they had it in them?