Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Local H at the Mercury Lounge

As the '90s continue to be rewritten under the nostalgia wave, there's some hope that Local H will given the respect that they deserve. Until then, they're still soldiering through America's clubs like Skrillex never happened, baring their teeth, brains and heart in confrontational new music long after their Chicago peers Liz Phair, Al Jourgensen and Billy Corgan have fallen into self-parody.

Opening the show with an acoustic solo set, frontman Scott Lucas took a chance to treat us to his alt-folk project and preview songs from Local H's upcoming album Hallelujah, I'm a Bum. It also apparently absorbed any interest that Lucas had in settling down that night. Local H's set was a blistering, two-hour tribute to Cheap Trick's power pop and Black Flag's abrasiveness. Staples like "Fritz's Corner," "All the Kids are Right" and "High-Fivin' MF" raged with wit, disillusionment and humor that always distanced Local H from their grunge contemporaries. "California Songs" (as in "We're all so sick of,") has evolved as a live diatribe for the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Weezer to now Katy Perry, reflecting the decline of popular music more than ever before. The crowd knew every word, even the ones that Lucas changes in the flesh.

Ever the rock historians, Local H threw in covers of PJ Harvey ("To Bring You My Love,") the Stooges ("TV Eye") and most impressively, Rush's "2112," hammered out impeccably with a newfound aggression. Re-imagining Rush as garage rockers did justice to both bands, emphasizing Rush as underrated proto-punks and Local H's pioneering of a two-man, DYI brand that the White Stripes and Black Keys took to arenas. Brian St. Clair's thunderous drumming and Lucas' crunch-punk riffs (filled out with bass pickups installed in his guitars) still provide a sound that no one has caught up to yet.

Ending with "Back in the Day," their rawest song of the night, Lucas dived onto the crowd and surfed over to the merch table, where he chatted with fans and manned the booth past midnight. His hair is graying, but for the most part Lucas hasn't changed. Through the end of the night, it was clear that he and St. Clair are still doing exactly what they were born to do.

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