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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Elvis Fu » Music » Lucero - "Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers"

"The rain will wash away the piss and blood"
Lucero, Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers
(Sept. 26th / Liberty & Lament)
RIYL: Throw Steve Earle in a blender with Bruce Springsteen, The Band, The Replacements and Social Distortion. Add some whiskey and puree.

Thanks to a generous Pre-Order offer from the boys in the band, I was fortunate enough to get a digital copy of Lucero's newest offering in my Gmail inbox this morning. First off, I think it's a great idea to give pre-order fans a digital copy they can listen to immediately, rather than clawing at the empty mailbox day after day. Also, I thought it was also a nice touch for the band to allow 2 downloads before the link expires. I quickly pulled one down to my machine at work, and saved the second for home. But what about the goods?

Some people felt let down by 2005's Nobody's Darlings, especially as a follow up to That Much Further West. In the band documentary Dreaming in America, songwriter/lead vocalist Ben Nichols explains that he was ready to make a real Rock and Roll record, a departure from the more sprawling, country flavored albums that that preceded Nobody's Darlings.

Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers is a leap further away from Uncle Tupelo-style introspective ruminating in favor of shameless ambition, which has already been compared to early Bruce Springsteen.

Nichols is out to prove himself with this record. Moreso than the prior releases, this album is driven by balls out ego and the results are fantastic. This is a Rock Record, first and foremost. It's driving, it's loud, it's messy in places, and it's a damn fun ride, even though you can picture yourself losing a limb or an eye in spots.

The lead track is "What Else Would You Have Me Be", a heartfelt plea of hard living lovers, half of which have appear to have taken on a less eventful lifestyle. "I'd take you out at night," begs Nichols, "buy you cigarettes and whiskey drinks / always ended up in some fight, isn't that how good love is supposed to be / you used to love me, drunk and running wild in the streets / how else would you have me be". Adding piano as it frantically climaxes, it tapers back down before leaping into the quickly paced, "I Don't Wanna Be the One", adding "I don't wanna be the one who wants you so damn much / I don't wanna be the one, who's running out of luck".

After the pretty straightforward Lucero number, "San Francisco", the doors are blown off with "I Can Get Us Out of Here Tonight", a Born to Run-style anthem that does just damn fine without Big Man cranking out a sax solo. One of the finest pure rock songs I've heard in a long time, period.

You can catch your breath a bit with the next two tracks, but then "The Mountain" mixes a little twang, organ and big drums to pull a page out of the Drive By Truckers' playbook: "My daddy lost most everything / on horses, whiskey and weddin' rings". "The Mountain" also introduces a shift in sound for the record. It sounds modern, yet slightly dated, in the way that I expected the last Sleater-Kinney to sound after reading all the reviews proclaiming a big 1970s rock sound. I didn't buy it with Sleater-Kinney, but this is very real. "The Mountain" has a break with a soaring guitar/organ break that would make Robbie Robertson & Garth Hudson proud.

Next up is "Sing Me No Hymns", the king hell monster that spawned the title of this post. It's a stubborn wall shaker with huge guitars that immediately make me think of Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla", albeit a Godzilla frustrated by failure, half cranked on plastic jug whiskey swatting away the good samaritans with "of all the things that I feel that need be done / to pay back what I owe, for all the blood and lost ones / till I feel the proper time has come, leave me be and let me drink / I need no more of your good intentions."

"She's Just That Kind of Girl" adds the organ to a Replacements-style rocker before Nichols settles the album to a close with "On the Way Back Home" and "She Wakes When She Dreams".

I've listened to this album non-stop since opening it this morning, and I keep revealing pieces and parts that were definitely not apparent on the work PC with shoddy speaks. I wish it had been available about five months earlier, as it is a great summer driving record. Though he gets overly raspy in places, even to the point of sounding like Shane MacGowan in spots, Ben Nichols continues to grow as a songwriter, and he seems to be composing with more confidence and expectations than before. If only parents would stop pussying up our children with shit like Death Cab for Cutie, we could make Lucero some obscene amounts of money in exchange for their hard work.

If you'd like to Pre-Order, buy straight from the band at LuceroMusic.com


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