Monday, December 17, 2012

Local H

Local H is a band I think most people have some slight awareness of (everyone knows Bound for the Floor, the "keep it copacetic" song, right?), but who deserve so much more. Their one-hit wonder status probably stops people from taking them seriously, which is a fucking shame to say the least.  Local H have consistently put out good-to-great rock records for the last 20 years, each of which features at least a couple of great songs.  They are remarkable for the ability to switch between aggressive to more mid-paced songs to ballads all in the same album, and still have it be of high quality and sound like Local H.  But most of all they stand out to me because of Scott Lucas' lyrics.  Scott Lucas gets it.  It is stunning to me the number of times his writing reflects things that I've feared were only fucked up shit that I thought about.  He can simultaneously make these songs both specific to him and universal, despite the ugliness of the emotion.  I'd compare him to Trent Reznor in this regard.  As I've gotten older I realized some of his stuff is not really all that universal; apparently some people are well-adjusted and occasionally happy.  But Scott ain't concerned about you.  And really, who is?  You are fucking boring, where are all your mental problems and debilitating social phobias you goddamn normals?  You inspire shitty network sitcoms where everything works out in the end.  Fuck off.  

Local H has just put out another absolutely worthwhile new record, so in honor of that below are some brief thoughts on the new one, and then the main event of this post, a Top 10 of Local H songs where the songs are ranked by lyrical quality. 

-A Couple of Thoughts about Hallelujah! I'm a Bum:

1.  I think this is the best thing they've put out since P.J. Soles.  More engaging both musically and lyrically than 12 Angry Months, which was an interesting concept (full album about a year long break-up, each song= a month), but I'm not sure had enough substance for a full record. 

2.  This is the first time Local H has gotten broadly political, and I think it works, and I don't think the concept will wane outside of an election year.  The references to Obama and Romney are brief, and the songs are good enough to work in whatever year one might be listening to them.

3.  The commitment to the idea of a concept album is impressive here, with the connecting elements of the Chicago subway system and the repeated portions of past songs popping up in other tunes now and again particular highlights.

4.  Once again there are some absolute stand-outs:

They Saved Reagan's Brain

Feed a Fever

Look Who's Walking on Four Legs Again

5.  Buy the record and then go see them live instead of whatever else it is you usually do.


Honorable Mention

Of course I couldn't limit it to just 10, so here's a couple of bonus songs before we get started:

-Hey Rita from P.J. Soles

Incredibly simple song both musically and lyrically, but communicates well the sort of nostalgia/regret/bemused hopelessness that is often Lucas' central theme.  And I don't know exactly what the "there's a statue with your face" line is supposed to mean, but I like trying to figure it out.  Maybe there just really is a statue with a face that looks like Rita's.  But I doubt it. 

-Hit the Skids from Pack up the Cats

I got this cd in my junior year of college and I remember this song specifically stuck with me.  Something about the theme of trying to live in a new situation with a new group of people being at once exciting, but also empty if you are just trying to fit in and know that this set of people don't see you for yourself. 

-BMW Man from 12 Angry Months

Nothing ground breaking here, just a big, biting "fuck you" to people who think they are automatically better than others because they have status or money, and the kick in the sack it is when someone that you thought liked you because you WEREN'T that type of person shows up with just such a D-bag on their arm.  The packaging as a mid-90s top 40 alternative rock song contrasts with this lyrical theme, setting up an interesting contradiction which I think is another Local H staple---even though Lucas is railing against corporatism here, isn't he also trying to write this big pop hit to show how successful and important he can be without the girlfriend?  One of Lucas' strengths is not letting himself off the hook, and that is on full display here as well. 

TOP 10

10.  (Baby Wants to) Tame Me from Here Comes the Zoo

My favorite of the handful of longer, jammed out songs Local H has done.  Not too much analysis needed here; the song's about knowingly being a shitty person to someone whose only crime is loving you, and doing so because that's just what you do.

9.  How's the Weather Down There from P.J. Soles

Another break-up song, made superior to others because of Lucas' ability to come up with seemingly simplistic sections that somehow encompass the violence of the emotion entirely.  For example:

And if you go home with another tough guy
I don't want to hear you cry
How you can't look him in the eye

Also noteworthy for the air of triumph to it (rare for Local H), though it is not without its bitterness as well. 

8.  Cynic from Ham Fisted

On their first album Local H had yet to separate their own sound from their influences, but Lucas' sharp tongue still has a couple of shining moments.  This is my favorite of the record, a song with the proposition that maybe non-stop self hatred is not be the best way to go about things, but struggling with finding the belief that you can make the change yourself.  And just to complicate matters, the song also acknowledges that without that belief, there's no good reason why anyone else would want to help you make that change.

7.  Fine and Good from Pack up the Cats

Pack up the Cats as a whole is about coming to grips with a major change that you thought is what you wanted, but ultimately failed to fix what was wrong.  This song is in the middle of the record, and to me is the central character reporting back to someone from his past life after settling in to the new situation.  An example of Lucas using typically trite, cliched language to illuminate how trite and cliched most of our communication is, and how much we hide what we are really feeling at any given time.

6.  What Would You Have Me Do? from Here Comes the Zoo

This song is remarkable for a number of reasons.  The vocal pattern has a unique and engaging syncopated style to it.  There are also many interesting turns of phrase in the song, probably my favorite being:

Can you just go home hated
hopelessly outdated, and not appreciated

But then the song's second half begins, and Lucas takes a big risk that could have blown up in his face and rendered the song a joke.  He starts repeating another verse over and over again (which, of course, depicts two lovers killing themselves on new years eve with cyanide pills, cause its Local H), while weaving in the vocal hooks from album's previous songs.  I think Here Comes the Zoo is uneven, and I don't even particularly care for some of the songs that reappear at the end of "What Would You Have Me Do." But these hooks now placed in to the context of this finale, and alongside "What's" own lyrics, gives new perspective to how the earlier songs work to make the album a cohesive whole.  If it sounds like kind of a mess, I could certainly see some people having that opinion, but to me it works and makes the song stand out. 

5.  Mellowed from P.J. Soles

Lucas' alcohol-related songs tend to have a defiance or at least irony to them.  Mellowed is the exception, a brutally honest, introspective, and remarkably quiet song

Laid down pacified and completely compromised  
Nothing left inside but memories of lies

Ouchtown.  That's one I wish I didn't relate to.

4.  Hands on the Bible from Here Comes the Zoo

Subtlety and metaphor are not typically Lucas' primary tools, but this is song that I am still trying to figure out.  The only instance I can think of when one puts their hand on the bible is when they are being given the oath prior to giving testimony.  And I think that makes some sense in this song--its Lucas saying this record ("Hands" is the first track on Here Comes the Zoo) is me giving it to you straight all about how I feel about myself and this shitty fucking life I find myself in, and I'll demand the same from you as the listener.  The song also features one of my favorite Local H passages in any song:

Worn and faded,
stoned and jaded
you'll have to face it...on your own

(also, "she's an addict; he wants to learn" is pretty amazing)

But I'm not sure how some of the other lyrics, especially the "pretty baby, never born" line, fits into this scheme.  So maybe I'm just way off.  What say you?

3.  Fritz's Corner from As Good as Dead

I don't think this one needs much explanation.  The beginning of the song is maybe the loudest and angriest moment of any Local H song and perfectly encapsulates this alcoholic's anthem.  I'll let it speak for itself:

I'm not mad, I'm just bored
and everything I do is only because
there's nothing much else for me to do,
and that includes you, and that includes you

2.  OK from As Good as Dead
Local H records tend to end with a long, quiet song.  The beginning of this tradition, and the finest example of it, is OK.  This is one of the saddest songs I've ever heard, and still can get me to well up anytime I hear it.  I think that's because it immediately evokes those times in your life when something you've wanted or loved is 100% gone and there is just no getting it back, and you must accept it, even though you can't.  "I'm not ok, but that's ok."  And of course, probably my favorite Lucas turn of phrase, the amazing:

And the reasons I have to live
are the reasons that you would give
to throw it all away

1.  Lovey Dovey from As Good as Dead

I don't know if many people are serially unhappy, and as a result end up fucking hating and resenting the people around them just because those fucking assholes are somehow happy themselves.  But if this sounds at all familiar, this song is the perfect catharsis to work out that toxic feeling.  Perhaps above all else, I love Local H because Lucas is so willing to be honest about and engage these impulses and emotions most of us would never admit to feeling.  This song is the finest example of that in their whole catalog for me, and that makes Lovey Dovey number one on this list.

Agree or disagree?  Any serious omissions?  Think I need a word limit?  Let me know.


  1. "California Songs" is a serious omission.

  2. Well thought out and written, love to see blog entries dedicated to Local H. Didn't want to give the impression that I didn't appreciate it with my previous comment.

  3. Album of the year.

  4. 24 hour breakup sessions/blur/machine shed wrestling/michelle again really to many to list

  5. The One with Kid is a perfect song about breakup. Its slow start gives you a false sense of security and ends up cutting you like a chainsaw. Local H is a true working class band.

  6. I thought about California Songs, and ultimately I think you're right, I should have found a place for it. I guess I tend to gravitate towards their more introspective shit, but the "fuck you" attitude is another big thing about the band. California Songs and High-Fiving Motherfucker fit nicely with that.

    Also dig The One with Kid. Any song with a Kyuss mention is ok with me.

  7. Ive always loved the lyrics to "Halcyon Days (Where Were You Then)" - but you are right, there are SO many.

  8. Hands on the bible is about abortion. It's also fucking awesome.

  9. Awesome top 10. The only song I can think of that may have made at least an honorable mention that has not yet been brought up is Creature Comforted. Big fan of them taking a shot at how our culture has made us conform to what is considered 'acceptable' behavior.

    Love the post. Fuck word limits.

  10. Buffalo Trace is awesome, maybe one the best ever played.