With Jerry Harrison producing, fellow ex-Modern Lover Ernie Brooks on bass, and Television drummer Billy Ficca, Gary Lucas has support from considerable talent on The Ordeal of Civility. It's still very much Lucas' record, however, from the rather incredibly varied songs and guitar playing to the less distinguished but amiable vocals. Not fitting into any category or trend, though he's certainly not mainstream, Lucas gets into rather Bowie-esque foreboding rock; whispered creepiness strongly reminiscent of some of Leonard Cohen's bleaker work (on "Jedwabne"); a song ("Swamp T'ing") liberally echoing the chorus to Run-D.M.C.'s rap classic "That's the Way It Is"; the kind of knotty, eccentric bluesy rock that makes you remember he played guitar for Captain Beefheart (especially on "Hot and Cold Everything"); delicate picking on a haunting piece reminiscent of an English folk ballad ("Lady of Shalott"); and folk-blues with virtuosic rapid guitar ("Whirlygig"). There's more, too (like the faintly Van Morrison-like soul-rock of "Climb the Highest Mountain," although Lucas will never be confused with Van the Man as a vocalist), but that gives you an idea of both how much ground is covered and how much it resists being pigeonholed. Critics might be tempted to wonder how this will find a commercial niche, even on college radio, but that's never seemed like something with which Lucas is overly concerned. It's not game-changing, but it's versatile, gutsy alternative rock that's consistently likable, even when he tries to sing and play somewhat downbeat or ominous material.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger