Local H Here Comes the Zoo (Palm Pictures)

Original Release Date: March 5, 2002

Review Date: March 15, 2002

"No song is too sacred and that's what makes them so professional It's all about the Benjamins, so come on let's hear it for the rock n' roll!" -- from "Rock & Roll Professionals"

Local H frontman Scott Lucas went through some hard times the last couple years, and Here Comes the Zoo proves it. After the parent of their previous label, Polygram, was bought up by Universal, Local H was quickly dropped in a round of label consolidation. Then after the 2-piece's drummer, Joe Daniels, left the band in 1999, Lucas wasn't sure whether he would form a new band, or go solo. Brian St. Clair, former drummer of Triple Fast Action, experienced the same when Triple Fast broke up a year earlier. Lucas asked St. Clair to take up the sticks for Local H, and proves his worth by hitting hard and hammering out his half of the music. Lucas, for his part, plays the all of the guitars and sings.

On the surface, Here Comes the Zoo seems like just another rock album born out of the Chicago scene of the mid-90's. Loud, heavy hitting, and with an attitude, it takes a while to find what differentiates it from the rest. There's the great Ministry-esque hook in "Son of 'Cha!'" and female backup vocals that contrast the driving guitar on "5th Ave. Crazy" (shades of Triple Fast's "Revved Up"). Nothing ground-shatteringly original, but certainly not bland or the norm.

The album is cohesive, with a theme that runs alongside Lucas' feelings as he dealt with the loss of the label, and struggling to find a new one. It is quite disturbing at times, "Hands on the Bible" seems to be about the feeling of being on trial for a murder committed while under the influence. A developing depression is explained in "Keep Your Girlfriend" which culminates in the album-ending monster opus of desperation "What Would You Have Me Do?", that clocks in at 10 minutes plus a 5 minute feedback session, 10 minute break, and one final note that fades out the album. But it also has some more radio-friendly tracks, like the bitter, but humorous "Rock & Roll Professionals".

This album is not as good as Local H's most popular effort, As Good as Dead, missing great songs such as "High-Fiving MF" and "Bound for the Floor" (the "keep it copacetic" song), but it is better than their previous Pack Up the Cats, and will likely garner commercial success somewhere between those two albums, enough to keep the band going until the next album.

Grade: C+