Being stuck at home sucks, there’s no two ways to say it. One of the best things I’ve done while social distancing is seek out and listen to new music. Veteran Illinois rockers Local H have released a new album during the stay-at-home orders, called LIFERS, and even though the album was cut months ago, Scott Lucas and Ryan Harding, and iconic producer Steve Albini, have delivered the perfect rock album for these times. It is a record full of rage and angst and even some optimism, all recorded without them knowing what was to come with the coronavirus and the panic that ensued.
Local H have always been one of those bands that flirted with widespread success, but they never took any of it for granted. There may not be a more hard-working person in rock ‘n roll than Scott Lucas. He will perform a two-hour set of the band’s almost 30-year catalog, then jump off stage to go work his own merch booth, taking the time to chat with fans and pause for pics.
He and Ryan Harding — just two people — create such amazing sound, both in the studio and on stage, that Local H shows are must-see events for fans of rock music. It’s especially gratifying when the band can create that same frenetic energy they create on stage while in the studio, and you can hear it in all its glory on the finished record.
These two men create full musical experiences, and the artistry displayed knows no peer. Local H’s dedicated fanbase has known this for years, and an album like LIFERS is one that can easily earn new fans.
LIFERS opens with the fast-paced rocker, “Patrick Bateman,” a song that immediately sets the mood for all that is to come. Lucas aims his lyrics at those in charge, and the people who follow them, and the band doesn’t let up for the 2:57 run time.
In many ways, this is a classic Local H track, one that gets the crowd riled up and shouting along with the lyrics, and it will be performed live for many years to come. As an album opener, it is near perfect, and with the lyric, “something wicked is a comin’ this way,” Lucas warns listeners that the rage is just getting started.
The fun continues on the next two tracks, “Hold That Thought” and “High, Wide and Stupid.” The former has an amazing bass line driving the lyrics, and the chorus is another emotion stoker, all but demanding the listener to sing along — or in this case, shout along.
“High, Wide and Stupid” is a throwback to another era in a way. The music sounds like a rock song from the ’70s, complete with cowbell and a riff that a band like Molly Hatchet would have loved.
“Turn the Bow” was the first released single from LIFERS, and it has all the hallmarks of a great Local H song, including a great beat, and lyrics that you can’t help but sing along to. It’s here on the album that the listener gets fully sucked into the vibe that Lucas and Harding are offering.
“Winter Western” benefits from Albini’s mixing, as it has the same audio textures of some of the artists he has worked with in the past, including Nirvana, The Breeders, Helmet, and Chevelle, among many, many others. This is a track that could easily be another single off the album at some point.
“Beyond the Valley of the Snakes” is the first of two epics songs on LIFERS. With a run time of 7:11, the track absolutely pulses, and the riff is infectious. This song takes the listener on a journey of sorts, and the lyrics sparkle with angst. Lucas sings, “So take your ball and go home/It’s not fun anymore/Go do your drugs all alone/Not fun anymore,” and you are left to wonder who is this directed toward? Who did him so wrong to earn a song?
His strained vocals and amazing guitar work carry the song, and those seven-plus minutes melt away quickly.
LIFERS finally takes a breather from the angst and rage with “Sunday Best,” one of the most beautiful and touching songs that Scott Lucas has ever written. Played on an acoustic guitar with no other accompaniment, this is an artist baring his soul to the world.
“Am I really all I used to be? I don’t know
You got somewhere else you’d rather be — you should go
You can go, you can go
Please don’t go”
In the sea of crunching, angry rock songs, “Sunday Best” may end up being the strongest track on LIFERS, and it is one that offers a glimmer of hope, not just on the album, but for life itself. It’s the kind of song that makes you want to thank the artist for creating. The video for “Sunday Best” is embedded below.
LIFERS‘ soulful break ends as quickly as it began with the driven rocker, “Demon Dreams,” which, like the preceding song, represents Local H at its very best. “Demon Dreams” is the song that gets me moving. Not just the cursory toe tapping, or head bob. It makes me want to get off my ass and break stuff.
After months of being cooped up in self-quarantine from the world, this song absolutely fires the listener up. The riff moves, recalling songs like “Taxi Cabs” off of 2008’s 12 Angry Months in its composition.
The next track continues the streak of amazing songs on LIFERS. “Farrah” is an absolute must-play at Local H live shows, as it has all the signatures that this band is known for. This is a song that I have hummed and/or sang on an almost daily basis in some form since my first listen. It’s down-and-dirty backbeat coupled with Lucas’ lyrics makes it one of the stronger tracks on the album.
The second epic song follows with “Defy and Surrender,” a 10-minute standout that gets back into the politics ring with some pointed barbs at what is going on in the country. Like “Patrick Bateman,” this song pulls no punches. As an epically long rock song, it works fine. As a political diatribe, it works just as well.
Musically, “Defy and Surrender” keeps up with the lyrics and Lucas’ unique voice, creating a wonderful final F.U. to those in power now, and brings the listener along for the fun.
LIFERS closes with another introspective song, “Innocents.” This is another track benefitting from Albini’s guidance, and it offers a different sound than the rest of the album, and yet fits perfectly with the other 10 tracks to end not only one of Local H’s best albums, but one of the best albums of 2020.
Local H, as a band, have been around for 30 years, and they’ve had some early commercial success. But without commercial radio support, and on the backs of a dedicated fanbase, Lucas and his revolving door of drummers have continued to put out amazing albums, one after the other. LIFERS represents another feather in the cap of this two piece band out of Zion, Illinois.
While it was impossible for them to know when they cut the album what was to come in the world at large a few months later, Local H has delivered the perfect rock album to get listeners through the doldrums of the coronavirus lockdown. The rage-inducing energy that LIFERS creates is an absolute marvel to behold, and this is an album I will be playing over and over, in lockdown and out.
LIFERS Track List:
- Patrick Bateman
- Hold That Thought
- High, Wide and Stupid
- Turn The Bow
- Winter Western
- Beyond The Valley Of Snakes
- Sunday Best
- Demon Dreams
- Defy And Surrender
LIFERS is available now, both digitally and in physical form.
All images courtesy of Local H/John Oakes.