In the great tradition of retro-obsessed teddy boys and mods comes Nic Armstrong, a young Brit enamored of early Beatles, Kinks, Stones, Yardbirds, Zombies – in other words, British rock pre-1966. The Greatest White Liar, his debut, could have been terribly cute dressed in its faux 40-year-old clothes, but instead it’s genuinely fun.

Part of the pleasure comes from playing spot-the-allusion: “Down Home Girl” lifts liberally from Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman”; “Scratch the Surface” employs the skiffle of Lonnie Donegan. Armstrong nails John Lennon’s sneer and howl, especially in “On a Promise” and “Back in That Room”; on the bouncy “She Changes Like the Weather,” he recalls a youthful Ray Davies.

Like the early Jam (whose Paul Weller has taken him under his wing), Armstrong and his band so convincingly inhabit these blatantly outdated styles that Liar is an honest, not-so-guilty pleasure.

Grade: B

© 2005, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

The Greatest White Liar is currently available.