Bound for more than the floor

Local H - "Whatever Happened To P.J Soles" - Studio E Records

Local H, the two-man powerhouse best known for the alterna-rock hit "Bound For The Floor" (a.k.a. 'that Copacetic song', 'Keep It Copacetic', 'Born To Be Down" etc. etc.) from their 1996 album "As Good As Dead", are known to never be content with recycling the same songs over and over.

While the band's first two albums established them as a great force their next album's, 1998's "Pack Up The Cats" and 2002's "Here Comes The Zoo", which confirmed that Local H was one of the sharpest and most challenging and electrifying bands around. On their new album, "Whatever Happened To P.J. Soles", the band, led by singer/guitarist/bassist Scott Lucas, experiments even more then usual, going down exciting and unexpected paths.

Local H, with their clever lyrics, distorted guitar, and influences ranging from Husker Du to Cheap Trick, embody a lot of things - call them alternative, grunge, punk, indie, slacker-rock, smart-rock, smart-ass rock - it all works. "P.J. Soles" keeps the band's ethic and attitude while exploring all the different avenues that their music can travel down.

"I had a [side] band called A Band Called Horse," Lucas said. "We'd f**k around with ['Buffalo Trace' a sprawling epic that eventually landed on the new album] a lot and I didn't think it was a Local H song. And then I started thinking, 'well, what the hell does that mean?'"

The redefining of a Local H song seems to be the purpose of "P.J. Soles" which features the menacing-psychedelic angst of "That's What They All Say" and the teary-eyed love letter that is the title song. P.J. Soles is an actress who, in her heyday, starred in "Halloween" and "Rock 'n' Roll High School" amongst others. "As far as iconic presence ... I don't think you can get much better," said Lucas.

"There shouldn't be any set criteria in our mind as to what is and isn't a Local H song," Lucas said. "I think we've always been pretty relaxed as far as things like that go but this was the most relaxed we've ever been by far. I think the last record was so rigorously structured that some of the things ... like those little detours and left turns [were ignored] and we want to get back to that on this record."

Lucas' idea worked and "P.J. Soles" proves that Local H is still one of the most original, exciting, and fresh bands around. "Dick Jones", with its studio effects and guitar pedals is practically unidentifiable as a Local H song. "Hey Rita" has Lucas' scream and St. Clair's stomping drums, but sounds nothing like anything the band has done. "Everyone Alive" is a boisterous anthem that attacks the worker-drone lifestyle.

Lucas intentionally wanted to mix things up; aside from just pushing boundaries in his songwriting, he put a lot of consideration into making new sounds as well.

"[There] was a lot more paying attention to tones and getting different sounds and trying to f**k things up as much as possible," Lucas said. "Most of the time was spent trying to get really interesting guitar sounds and vocal sounds ... and just get the most spontaneity and life out of it."

"P.J. Soles" - one of the best tracks on the album - finds Lucas stretching in many ways. The soft, sad, and spacey guitar cautiously leads the way for Lucas' vocals. In the chorus, Lucas goes from a scream to a falsetto as he cries out, "And if I do think of you, it's only in the darkest place inside of me," as a haunting keyboard lines quickly enters and exits the listener's consciousness.

"It is [more personal]," Lucas said. "I think in each record you can find stuff like that and I think there are the little stabs at pop-culture on this record as well...'California Songs', that's a good example of a Local H type of swipe at things. I think all the records have something personal...Feel-wise and lyric-wise I think there's something a bit more honest about this record. That's probably why I chose to actually print the lyrics this time...I actually think I got to a place on this record where I was like 'oh, these lyrics are pretty good.'"

Lucas said "Everyone Alive" and "California Songs" prove that he still has his acidic touch while songs like "P.J. Soles" and "Mellowed", which features acoustic guitar, are more introspective.

The record, like many Local H albums, is tied together by a theme which is evident in the title of the album and the names of the opener, "Where Are They Now", and the closer, "Halcyon Days (Where Were You Then)".

"[The record's] about this kind of eat-em-up-and-spit-em-out culture that we've got ... [these shows] asking 'where are they now' the people asking these questions ... don't have a right to ask them," Lucas said. "It's a bunch of people I've never even heard of asking ... people [that] have made real contributions to our culture where are they now. This tone of 'what have you done lately', well - what have you ever done, what will you ever do?" Lucas said.

The album also addresses what happens to people when they drop from the public eye.

"Aside from just fame and pop culture ... there's also a lot of stuff on the record about how you just keep living and you don't give up and what happens when you get older," he said.

Lucas might not be a fallen star, but he certainly has some insight. Local H is still largely known as a one-hit-wonder; "Bound For The Floor" still gets spun on the radio while the band's newer singles are largely ignored.

"If I really believed that [the radio should stop playing it] then I should burn all the checks, I should not play the song live anymore. I wrote it and I know what I mean by it and I know what it should feel like. I certainly don't feel obligated to play it ... I certainly don't feel like it's an albatross around my neck and I'm not afraid to play it."

Lucas isn't held back by what songs of his are being played on the radio - but he does ponder the other songs out there, thus "California Songs", with the refrain 'please no more California songs and fuck New York too!', was born.

"Everyone seems to think [I was set off by] that Phantom Planet song ['California']. I think when I started getting really angry was [the Red Hot Chili Pepper's] 'Californication'... just constantly mythologizing California ... Plus, there's that sense of regional arrogance to both New York and LA like they're the center of the universe ... it's a big country, there's a lot of voices and a lot of people that have things to say."

Lucas is certainly a voice that should be heard; groups as honest and intelligent as Local H are few and far between. With "P.J. Soles" Local H has created yet another album that is bound to outlast its peers and is practically a necessity in any self-respecting rock fan's library.

by Nick Romanow, Collegian Staff

April 09, 2004