Scott Lucas & the Married Men

Blood Half Moon

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Scott Lucas & the Married Men's second album finds the Local H leader not only well into exploring new musical possibilities, but finding what on balance is really a thrilling new possibility in what's rapidly become a crowded field. The number of grizzled-sounding records that have emerged in the 21st century combining equal parts Johnny Cash, Michael Gira, and Nick Cave could pretty well fill several shelves and/or hard drives, and at the start, with the excellent "Lover, The Lullaby," it seems Blood Half Moon would fit into that realm alone, thanks to spooky organ and guitar, fired-up strings, drums, and more. (Though arguably a real role model here might also be the still underrated Crime and the City Solution, given Simon Bonney's similar obsessions and ear for striking performances.) But the first hint that there's something more at work is a touch, just enough, of sunnier power pop in the chorus, which is followed by some massive guitar soloing at the end that further transforms the song. It's a pretty clear statement of intent, and from that point forward, Blood Half Moon is clearly out to be a fusion of Lucas' musical interests instead of simply a substitution or a new direction. Thus the title track has a great "living life on your own" chorus that feels like a Local H hook turned into something more reflective, which, combined with the rising vocals on the break, transforms a reach toward anthemicism into an actual anthem. From there, it's almost an embarrassment of riches, from the brighter harmonies and easier feelings of "There You Are" to the slow-burn build-up and explosions of "Out of the Boat." Add to that the remarkable concluding one-two punch of "Heavy Lidded Love," which could almost be prime Cheap Trick at the end, and a reworking of the traditional "Ain't No Grave" that nods again to Cash but puts its own huge stamp on things, with Lucas leading a gang-shout of the title. Blood Half Moon might just be the rock record of 2012.

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