Here comes the disappointment, er, zoo

Chicago rockers Local H lose everything that made them great

by Nathan Lichtman, ArtsEtc. Writer March 21, 2002

Disappointment has a new name. Released Tuesday, Here Comes The Zoo, Local H's first CD since '98, is a crushing disappointment to fans of the band who patiently waited for the disc while the band searched for a new label and didn't play live shows. In the past, the nods to groups such as Pink Floyd on the fearsome twosome's last disc, Pack Up The Cats, were acceptable since the disc rocked like a fat man in a tiny canoe, but Here Comes The Zoo and its 1970s tin-can distortion will make you long for the Local H of the past. Besides the over-hyped White Stripes, Local H is the most well known two-piece band in the business. Lead singer Scott Lucas has been playing his bass-guitar hybrid for years now, and former drummer Joe Daniels hit the skins so hard you thought he was going to go punch a hole in the wall, just like the old Kool-Aid pitcher commercials, but those days are gone.

Here Comes The Zoo's problems stem from a complete lack of firepower. Making a '70s knockoff album may seem funny when you are drunk and may make good b-side material, but that doesn't mean you should really do it. Whoever authorized the release of this anemic disc was not sober, just like whoever authorized "Kung Pow! Enter The Fist" to become a film. Scott Lucas knows better than this.

Maybe it was his parting with Daniels following the Pack Up The Cats tour, but this album is the worst record in Local H's four-disc catalogue. While Daniels would propel old tracks such as "All-Right (Oh, Yeah)" and "Nothing Special" with his stick-splitting drumming style, new drummer Brian St. Clair (who looks like a cross between Michael Bolton and the ugly dude from Nickelback) hits the skins like a man who has had the stomach flu for a week.

H's major-label debut, Ham Fisted, was an underappreciated gem that sounded better than almost all the other Nirvana ripoff bands who were out in the mid-'90s. Tracks like "User" and "Sports Bar" would later spawn the most successful disc of H's career, As Good As Dead, which featured the breakout hit "Bound For The Floor" (the copacetic song) and the blistering assault of "Fritz's Corner."

Pack Up The Cats was attacked for sounding too modern in a time when rock was supposedly "dead" and rap/rock was going to save the world. Well, the only thing the rap/rockers like Fred Durst ended up saving were abandoned donuts at band practice and the market for giant graphic T-shirts at sh*t shacks like Hot Topic. "All The Kids Are Right" and "Cool Magnet" kicked it up a notch on the underrated disc, but not enough to keep Local H on the straight and narrow path of hard-hitting melodic rock. From the opening chords of Zoo's lead track, "Hands On Bible," you know the party is over. Muted guitar chords replace feedback-laden distortion, and soft '70s lyrics replace the once primal scream of Lucas. "Half-Life" is OK in a retro sort of way, but it's definitely not a good example of what Lucas is capable of.

"Son of Cha" sounds like the H of the past. Simple drums and cadence-like vocals seem to be leading up to a big chorus, but that never happens. The track fizzles out after the verses. This fizzle can also be heard on the forgettable tracks "5th Ave. Crazy" and "Rock & Roll Professionals."

The final moments of "What Would You Have Me Do?" claw their way toward the beautiful land of melody, but it's too little too late for Local H. They had several years to get it right with Here Comes The Zoo, and although retro-enthusiasts will be stoked about this disc, there will be many disappointed fans with an image of a screaming Scott Lucas etched on their minds. The old melodic magic of the Local H they remember no longer exists.