PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Local H: Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?

Mitch Pugh

Local H

Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?

Label: Studio E.
US Release Date: 2004-04-06
UK Release Date: Available as import

So what did happen to P.J. Soles?

Unless you happen to be a member of what writer Robert Lanham calls the Waitstaff and Service Hipster set (and you know who you are), you likely have no idea. Soles is the "actress" who "starred" as Riff Randall in the Ramones' Rock 'n' Roll High School, Pvt. Wanda Winter in Private Benjamin, Stella in Stripes, and, more recently, Mrs. Purr in 1999's Jawbreaker. And, of course, no one can forget her role as Ellen Whitby in episode 4.14 of the criminally under-appreciated television "drama" Knight Rider.

Now 54, Pamela Jayne Soles's most recent work, aside from 2004's The Mirror Mirror Collection, can be found inside the CD for Chicago rockers Local H. In one of the most elaborate ploys ever to meet a pre-teen crush, guitarist/singer Scott Lucas penned the song "P.J. Soles" and convinced the actress to pose for the CD art. "She was Riff Randall!" he recently gushed to band apologist/cheerleader and Chicago Sun-Times pop music critic Jim DeRogatis. Borderline stalker talk, but amusing nonetheless.

The song itself is what is to be expected from such talk: an immature, moody but somewhat sweet ode ("They'll never know you like I do"). And it's also the most interesting thing on the record.

Like the aging cult figure the title of the record evokes, Local H has increasingly become a novelty act. And there's nothing DeRogatis or any other fan of the band in its heyday can say to justify their decline. They may have rightfully left their post-grunge angst behind, but becoming a cheap knock off of Cheap Trick or a slightly more literate version of the plethora of pop punk poseurs on the market ain't exactly something to hang your hat on.

The first full track on the album, "Everyone Alive", is catchy, guitar-crunching fun and sounds a lot like a more produced version of the Lucas/Brian St. Clair (drums) duo in their prime. It kicks ass and could even find its way onto the radio airwaves, an elusive thing since the mid-'90s for a band that was doing the "White Stripes thing" well before Jack and Meg. It's all downhill from there.

"California Songs" is juvenile in all the wrong ways. Lucas's whining about California bands and their songs about Los Angeles grows tiresome in a hurry. "We know you love L.A. / There's nothing left to say / Please no more California songs", Lucas blubbers, before outdoing that sophomoric rant with the aside, "� And fuck New York, too". How goddamn profound! Or is this what Alanis Morrissette would call "ironic". Dunno. However, the Decemberists' "Los Angeles, I'm Yours" was one of this listener's favorite songs of 2003, so "California Songs" aren't necessarily inherently insipid. Weaselly numbers littered with puerile indignations and utterly predictable guitar work really is never much fun. In fact, for all the distancing the band did from the grunge sound in the early '90s, this is the song that has the most direct ties to that Northwest sound. It's Everclear funneled through a Courtney Love-worthy pitty fest set to music. It's boring and unimaginative and worlds away from the charm of a song like "P.J. Soles". How this band is responsible for two songs on such remarkably different ends of the taste spectrum is beyond comprehension.

The next track, "Dick Jones", has a psychedelic feel to it and is the strongest track on the record. It's a bit Pink Floyd, a bit classic rock, but with enough of Lucas's signature guitar sound to kick it up a notch. "Money on the Dresser" is too Soundgarden for its own good. (See how that whole grunge thing really is inescapable?) "How's the Weather Down There?" Well, it's partly Replacements but mostly Goo Goo Dolls. The instrumental "Buffalo Trace" is a stoner rock romp, the song that's most similar to 2002's Here Comes the Zoo -- which included a guest spot from Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme. "Heaven on the Way Down" continues with the stoner rock riffs but is a throwback of sorts to the fat, alt rock sound of Superchunk and the like.

"Hey Rita", despite its Cookie Monster vocals, is an interesting romp. The guitar/drum rave up a few minutes into the track is the most inspired the band sounds on this otherwise lethargic and predictable record. The sad thing (given Local H's impressive back catalogue) is that this record may actually be the one that gets the band noticed by the ubiquitous "mainstream". Both "Everyone Alive" and "California Songs" would be considered made for radio in any other band's hands. And they may very well be. "Everyone Alive" is the type of anthem you expect to find on prime time teen television -- just the kind of song, like Phantom Planet's "California", that the band claims to detest. Local H on The O.C.? Now wouldn't that be ironic?

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.