Even Scott Lucas of he alternative rock due Local H isn't exactly sure what "alternative rock" means these days.
"I think it means rock without really fast guitar solos and big hair," said Lucas, whose group will play at the Penny Road Pub in Barrington Hills Friday and Saturday.
At least, that's what it meant in 1996 when Local H has a radio hit with the song "Bound for the Floor" during the alternative rock boom that followed the successes of Nirvana and Peal Jam.
But recently, Lucas said, alternative rock "seems to mean rock with really fast guitar solos and big hair. It's going back to that."
Even if those heavy-metal elements are creeping back into popularity, it doesn't bother Lucas.
"What a band actually sounds like and what the press decides to call them have nothing to do with each other," Lucas said.
That being said, here's the typical rock critic's description of Local H: punk-influenced grunge rock with angst-filled lyrics.
Local H's big sound belies its small lineup: Lucas on guitar, accompanied only by a drummer. Lucas has a simple reason for why he formed Local H as a duo.
"We didn't know any bass players," he said.
To make up for the lack of a bassist, Lucas runs his guitar through separate amps, one designed to emphasize the sound of the guitar's bass strings.
"That's the identity of the group," Lucas said. "If I did a full band, it wouldn't be Local H."
Lucas drew on his experiences as an adolescent growing up in Zion for the lyrics of Local H's breakthrough second record "As Good As Dead," which Island Records released in 1996. It's a concept album about trying to escape like in a "nowhere town," as one critic put it.
Local H's hit from that album, "Bound for the Floor," probably sent many radio listeners scrambling for their dictionaries to look up "copacetic," the word used prominently in the song's chorus (it means "excellent" or "first-rate" ) .
Local H returned in 1998 with the album "Pack Up the Cats" and a song - "All the Kids Are Right" - about a rock group playing an atrocious concert.
The song seemed to demonstrate Lucas' awareness of the need not to let down his fans with a single bad performance.
"All the kids, they hold a grudge," he sang. "You fail them and they won't forget it."
After "Pack Up the Cats," Local H's original drummer, Joe Daniels, packed up and left the band. Around the same time, Island Records' parent company was brought out and Local H lost its record deal.
Lucas said he knew only one person who could replace Daniels: Brian St. Clair who had been a drummer with the band Triple Fast Action and was working as a drum technician for Cheap Trick.
"If I couldn't get Brian, I wouldn't have continued Local H," Lucas said.
With St. Clair on board, Local H has recorded a new album for the Palm Pictures label, "Here Comes the Zoo," which is due out in February.
"I think the new record rocks more than the last ones did," Lucas said.
Some of the new lyrics are about musicians getting older and losing their edge, something Lucas himself hopes to avoid.
"People whine about rock being dead," he said. "It's only because these people killed it."
This weekend's shows will mark Local H's return to the Penny Road Pub after a concert there one year ago.
"The first time we played there, they didn't have a stage so we played on a pool table," Lucas said.
Lucas said he still prefer playing that kind of show, even after performing in much bigger venues.