70s Values, '90s Rock

sept 98

"The most important thing was to try and make a record that you would listen to from beginning to end, and get back to the art of making full records, instead of a couple of singles and a bunch of filler," says Scott Lucas, lead singer/ guitarist/ bassist for Chicago's amazing two-man "big rock" band, Local H. "So I spent a lot of time with records I grew up with, going back to the '70s and seeing how to put together a record." Lucas is speaking about Pack Up The Cats (Island), the third album he's recorded with drummer Joe Daniels. As with Local H's earlier work, the new disc is dominated by the huge sound and clever hooks that Lucas and Daniels seem to come up with effortlessly. But now that the novelty aspect of the band--Lucas plays his guitar through both a standard guitar pickup and a bass pickup, thus eliminating the need for a bass player--has worn off, one can listen and appreciate just what the duo has accomplished with what Lucas calls their "concept album about cats."

The soft-spoken frontman has had little time to ponder the success of the band's previous album, 1996's As Good As Dead, which spawned the monster hit "Bound For The Floor." After touring with Daniels for nearly 18 months, Lucas hardly paused before going back on the road, this time as second guitarist for fellow Chicago band Triple Fast Action. "It was good to do because it cleared my head and gave me a different perspective on writing music. When you write, you get kinda stuck into certain patterns that every writer has, but when you learn an entire body of someone else's work, you start to see the patterns that they get stuck in, which is interesting."

Once Lucas returned to Chicago, it only took a couple of months for him and Daniels to whip Pack Up The Cats' material into shape. From the start, the pair wanted to avoid the current plague of interchangeable rock bands and albums that live or die by one hit single. "As far as a record that has the feel I was looking for, I think Dark Side Of The Moon stands above anything else," Lucas says. "The songs just flow together and before you know it, you're at the end of it. We were really trying to go for things like that--segues, the way certain songs lent themselves to certain keys, and things like that." Lucas bristles at the suggestion that both the public and the music industry don't have the patience or ability to listen to a complete album anymore. "You've got people going, 'Well, it's a different time now, we can't do things like that.' And I'm like, 'Fuck you, if we don't do it, who's gonna do it?' There's constantly people saying we can't do it because it's not like it was in the '70s. Well, I know it's not like it was in the '70s, but why treat people like they're idiots?"

To achieve their goals, Local H hired producer Roy Thomas Baker, who's probably best known for his classic work with Queen. The result is one of the most straightforward, hard-hitting, unashamedly rocking albums you'll hear this year.

"You've got dyed-in-the-wool rockers saying rock is dead," growls Lucas. "Wait a minute. Where did you get this from? It's just people spending too much time listening to what everyone else says, instead of saying, 'It's my record, fuck off.' If more people did that, it'd be great."