Twelve Angry Months
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|1. January: the One With 'Kid'|
|2. February: Michelle (Again)|
|3. March: Bmw Man|
|4. April: White Belt Boys|
|5. May: the Summer of Boats|
|6. June: Taxi-Cabs|
|7. July: 24 Hour Break-Up Session|
|8. August: Jesus Christ! Did You See the Size of That Sperm Whale?|
|9. September: Simple Pleas|
|10. October: Machine Shed Wrestling|
|11. November: Blur|
|12. December: Hand To Mouth|
Rolling Stone sings praise for Local H's last record,'Nicely raw, angsty songs rank with their best.' The project was written after the bitter end of a long term relationship and it chronicles a full year of post breakup experiences. Each track corresponds to a month and deals with the range of emotions one encounters after love turns sour. Chicago based Local H released their first album, Ham Fisted in 1995. Their previous album as Whatever Happened To P.J. Soles?
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Both gained the public spotlight during the aftershocks of the nineties grunge earthquake. Both earned their success through unbearably catchy singles. Both bands appeared dead after their major label sequels failed to meet expectations. Both resurrected themselves in the new millennium after a lengthy hiatus where they lost and replaced a band mate.
That's where the similarities end. One of these bands went on to recapture their mid-nineties songwriting skills and added a few new tricks while they survived playing small clubs and searching out independent labels for their newer albums. The other band sounded like a cheap knockoff but still managed to sell out stadiums and eat up internet chatter about their latest new release.
I'm talking about Local H and Weezer here. In my mind it is one of the great tragedies of our time that Weezer, a band who hasn't been able to write a truly great song for well over a decade, has managed to coast on nostalgia selling millions of records while Local H, a band that is as strong, if not stronger, than they were in the alternative rock heyday, is remembered as a one hit wonder. Now that both acts are putting out new albums in the same year I wish I could claim that things are about to change and that a chiasmus shift will occur finding Local H on top and Weezer looking for a record deal. Instead, expect Weezer to put out a series of albums that sound as if they were recorded during a coke fueled all-nighter right before deadline ("Hey, remember that old Shaker song, we'll just use that and people will think we're being clever"), and Local H will continue to put out consistently good to great albums so long as they find a label willing to distribute them.
It's a real shame too, because 12 Angry Months is the best Local H album since Pack Up the Cats. Not coincidently both albums emerge from the concept records of the 1970's, but instead of the mystifying and campy sci-fi rock of Electric Light Orchestra or Styxx, Local H's album long tales are of a more personal nature. Pack Up the Cats chronicled a band moving from the countryside to the big city and realizing that many of the same tribulations exist in both places. 12 Angry Months is a break up album that follows the despondent over a single post-break up year. As you might guess each song corresponds to a month.
What's particularly powerful about Local H's latest is the sheer honesty. This isn't a collection of wistful songs about a lost love engineered to be perfect background music to sip one's morning cup of joe. Instead, Scott Lucas realizes that most relationships end in an immolation that engulfs both participants. On "White Belt Boys" Lucas repeats "I hope you have a lonely life" and Lucas is his least sympathetic on "Jesus Christ! Did You See..." where he bluntly states, "to think I used to f*** you." Sentiments like these are effective because of their honesty, and because Lucas realizes they emerge as much out of his hatred of another as they do out of self-loathing, as evinced by the mantra "only a groupie would ever want to love me."
The transition from love burned to denouement backtracks from introspection to anger. Songs that hint at some sort of reconciliation, like "Simple Pleas'" acoustic guitar, are tempered by the anger evident in the industrial sounding percussion on "Machine Shed Wrestling." The album accurately chronicles how hatred lies underneath the most sophisticated of sentiments. Lucas's wit is underrated, and it is his sense of humor that also helps him recognize what the hell happened. On "The One With `Kid'" he describes the process of disentangling the couple's integrated record collection, a task that leads him to accusatorily ask where his Kyuss records are, and to claim "you never liked them until you met me." Later, in "Machine Shed Wrestling," Lucas sings "As a product you would be great, and all the income you generate, but as a lover you're just a bust, you're not a service I can trust," suggesting that the two first met comparing notes about their recently divorced record collection.
A rock band like Local H who openly confesses their love of Daft Punk is the kind of rock band who can write some great pop songs. This is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the Weezer/Local H comparisons. Despite being known as a power pop band, Weezer hasn't written a truly memorable pop song since their second album. Skim the top four songs off of just this one Local H album and compare it to the top four songs from Weezer's last four records and I guarantee you every Local H song will win the pop category.
But Local H doesn't just stop at writing catchy songs, they also have a knack at writing final songs that sums up everything that came before. On "Hand to Mouth" Lucas repeats the lines "You'll learn what really matters, you'll know what really counts, you'll hear the chitter-chatter, they say when you're living hand to mouth," with variation, on into infinity. Each intonation suggests a new and slightly different understanding of the phrase. Built upon tricks old and new, "Hand to Mouth" is possibly the best song in Local H has written to date, and possibly my favorite song so far this year.
The music industry has undergone some mighty peculiar changes since the 1990's. I wish all of it was for the better. Despite the injustices that still exist in the marketplace, I'll be happy if the long-tail provides enough room for a band like Local H to continue to write great albums without being forced to ride the wave of the inevitable 90's nostalgia trend. I'll end before you get me started on the Stone Temple Pilots' reunion. That's a whole other review.
The production of this album is fairly raw. I expect their albums to be more polished - and their live stuff to have this kind of rawness. But with the success they've had over the years as a live act - it doesn't surprise me that they would want to bring that into a studio album to try and capture that energy. For example - the tracks go from song to song with no break - which reminds me of how they waste little time ripping from one song to another live. This may leave the listener somewhat out of breath being bombarded like this - but for fans of the band - this should come as no surprise.
Musically Local H has shown their willingness to mature and create more complex sounds in their music. Yet, this album doesn't really expand much from what they did on their previous album `Whatever Happened to PJ Soles?' - where they go from psychedelic and spacey - to soft and sweet - to rock your ears until they bleed. The production of the album probably took a bit away from their options to expand any further but that's okay - it fits with the theme of the album.
As for the theme - this album chronicles a year of an on-and-off relationship. Each song tackles an emotion that you generally feel at the end of a bad relationship.
The fact that they focus on one thing throughout the album is where it's more of a "success" than some of their previous efforts. Most of their previous albums had an unfocused hostility that was scattered all over from the being pissed at the government - hating on mullet haired idiots - annoyance with California bands - and their sarcastic view of the rock `n roll business. So, it's refreshing to hear what they can do when they focus their energies much like their 3rd (and best) album `Pack Up the Cats' where they focus on telling a story through the entire album.
I recommend this album to anyone who enjoys 90's hard rock/garage rock - anyone who just got out of a bitter relationship and you need to hear something that might help put an exclamation point on the end of the break-up. Every song on this album is a 4 or 5 star song and other than wanting to take a piece of sand paper to a few areas - it's a fantastic album.
12 Angry Months is about a messy break-up, particulary the year immediately after the relationship is over. Thus each song deals with this subject in some way or another, sometimes a bit less obviously - as with Taxi-Cabs. However, although the emotion is strong throughout, and the break-up has produced some amazing songs in a way sticking by this theme does its part to limit the album, not majorly, but it does do its part.
Local H's three best albums were As Good As Dead, Pack Up the Cats and Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles? All three of which are above and beyond most music produced in their respective period.
What 12 Angry Months doesn't have is As Good As Dead's youthful angst, so beautifully construed in the heavy melodies. It lacks Pack Up the Cats laughing cynicism. And it is not P.J. Soles' sense of failure, its sense of hopelessness, conveyed in a way that has such power.
It is a good album, completely worth a buy, it is just not as good as some past ones.
I think this latest work, 12 Angry Months, strays away from that polished sound, which I think is too bad because that would have guarenteed radio play and perhaps unforeseen mainstream success. If you read the other reviews, you will see a lot of talk about "90's nostalgia". Well, bands like Local H, Weezer, Radiohead, Offspring, and Greenday are all apart of that nostalgia. Greenday notably has seen their greatest revival and are bigger than they ever were with the combination of their old and new fans. I wish Local H went into this direction.
Until they do that, I will just enjoy them for what they are and what great music they create. I know I will get s*** from this, but honestly, I just want to see them become as successful as possible.
If you are unaware this is a concept album about frontman Scott Lucas breaking up with a girl, while this is not a new concept, it is an effective concept for this album. In a majority of the songs you can feel Lucas' frustration with his former fling. The first four songs on the album are flawless. The beginning track "The one with Kid" implores his ex to give back some of his cd's reiterating how important music is to him and how she ripped off some of his favorite music while also ripping his heart apart. "Michelle (again)" is another good song with Lucas expressing his feelings for falling for the wrong girl again, but he maintains positive attitude knowing he will find someone else, but wants to make sure they are not like his former girlfriend. The first time I heard this song it was probably my least favorite on the album, but I saw them play this song live and it totally changed my mindset of how good a song it is. "BMW Man" has a nice catchy chorus that will stay in your head for hours. My personal fav on the album "White belt Boys" starts of slowly and builds to a big finish with Lucas jamming out on his guitar.
The rest of the album is good as well with "24 Hour Breakup Session", "Machine Shed Wrestling", and "Jesus Christ did You see the size of that sperm whale" continuing on the same path as the beginning of the album. The only song I don't care for is "Summer of Boats" as it just does not seem to fit in musically with the other songs on this album.
In conclusion, this is a solid album with several good songs. If you like grunge/rock n' roll type music then this album is for you. Also, if your new to Local H and like them check out their other albums as they are very solid as well.