Local H's two best and best-known albums, 1996's As Good as Dead and 1998's Pack Up the Cats, were loose concept pieces about Midwest rock & roll losers whose abilities never quite lived up to their ambitions or potential, so it's an amusing irony that the band's tenure at Island Records has now earned them a "best-of" compilation as part of Universal's mid-priced Icon series, alongside Nirvana, ABBA, Rod Stewart, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Tony! Toni! Toné! If both loyal fans and casual admirers might be amused by the band's presence alongside the bona fide rock stars and two-hit wonders in this series, the 12 songs on this disc make it clear that this was one of the best bands to emerge from the 1990s grunge explosion, and one of the few whose musical and philosophical outlook wasn't lifted outright from their peers in Seattle. This set is dominated by material from As Good as Dead (five songs) and Pack Up the Cats (three songs), though the band's appropriately titled debut, Ham Fisted, is represented by one tune ("Cynic"), while another track from the album, "Mayonnaise and Malaise," appears in an unreleased radio edit. The album even includes two genuine rarities for loyal fans and collectors; the band's reverent but powerful cover of Guided by Voices' "Smothered in Hugs," which first appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Sling Blade, makes the cut, as does "Tag-Along," an outtake from Pack Up the Cats that popped up on the soundtrack to the indie drama Gravesend. Local H's post-Island career has proven to be as interesting as their major-label period, but Icon (The Island Years) at least offers a worthy if concise overview of their agile but bruising sonic attack, their witty and witheringly honest lyrical perspective, and Scott Lucas' abundant street smarts as one of the most interesting underground heroes of hard rock in the 1990s. All that for less than ten bucks -- welcome to the big time at last, guys!
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming