Local H

Here Comes the Zoo

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Released in 1998, Pack Up the Cats was supposed to be Local H's breakthrough album, which would propel the band to fame and fortune (or at least a better touring van), but that sure wasn't how things worked out. The merger of Polygram and Universal shortly after Pack Up the Cats was released drove a stake through the album before it could take off, and the bandmembers quickly found themselves stranded and without a label, which led drummer Joe Daniels to quit the group -- no small thing for a two-man band. The fact that Local H survived at all to make Here Comes the Zoo is no small accomplishment, but the album suggests guitarist/bassist/vocalist/songwriter Scott Lucas is still trying to win back the momentum he lost after the debacle of 1999. New drummer Brian St. Clair has both the muscle and the chops that these songs need, but his slightly heavier and busier style does give Local H a different sound than when Daniels was timekeeper and, just as importantly, Lucas seems to be pushing Local H in a new direction that doesn't always seem to fit. Lucas' fondness for Cheap Trick rises to the surface on "Half-Life" and "(Baby Wants To) Tame Me" but, while both boast strong melodies, they're not as exciting as his more straightforward hard rockers, and the mid-tempo "Keep Your Girlfriend" sounds like the least essential song Lucas has cut since Ham Fisted (and while Jerry Only from the Misfits plays on it, you'd never guess to listen to it). Also, the songs on Here Comes the Zoo lack the thematic unity that added so much strength to As Good as Dead and Pack Up the Cats, giving the album a more scattershot feel (though the closer, "What Would You Have Me Do?," is an interesting and mostly successful attempt to tie the album's melodic and lyrical themes together into a big finish). But the best moments on Here Comes the Zoo leave no doubt that Scott Lucas still has plenty to say and good ways to say it -- "Hands on the Bible," "Creature Comforted," and "Son of 'Cha!'" are powerful studies of Midwestern angst, and "Rock & Roll Professionals" is a hard-rockin' and very funny attack on would-be arena rockers. Here Comes the Zoo is a good album that, coming after two great albums from Local H, sounds like a bit of a disappointment, but it also makes clear that Scott Lucas is still one of the most interesting and distinctive talents in American hard rock, and it's good to see he hasn't thrown in the towel.

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