Lucero: That Much Further West

Stephen Haag


That Much Further West

Label: Tiger Style
US Release Date: 2003-09-23
UK Release Date: Available as import

With Ryan Adams off on his own planet where he can impress rock critics with his CD collection, where's an alt-country-punk fan supposed to get his fix? After all, Adams, with apologies to Messrs. Tweedy and Farrar, embodied the Hank Williams-fronts-the-Clash aesthetic in the mid-to-late '90s with Whiskeytown. Adams himself summed this up by once noting, "I started this damn country band / Cuz punk rock was too hard to sing". All hope is not lost with Adams's defection from the fold, though, as a number of bands have taken up the torch in his stead -- Australia's You Am I and Texas' Slobberbone have been melding country laments with punkish fury for years. To that list, add Memphis, Tennessee, four piece Lucero. Their latest, That Much Further West, is an enjoyable slice of hard-rocking Americana for those unwilling to follow Adams wherever he may roam.

The driving force behind Lucero is singer/guitarist Ben Nichols, who, as luck would have it, has been blessed with the same raspy, whiskey-soaked voice that has served Adams and Slobberbone's Brent Best so well. Nichols immediately puts his pipes to good use on That Much Further West, with the one-two punch of the opening title track and "Mine Tonight". Both exude a late-night open-road vibe, which is no surprise, given that Nichols' narrator is driving back to the girl he shouldn't have left in both songs. Nichols may be miserable, but his regrets are couched in big fuzzy guitars from Nichols and Todd Gill, with rock solid foundation from bassist John Stubblefield and drummer Roy Berry.

As good as those two tunes are, every "rocking-out" song is an album highlight. "Hate and Jealousy" could be Lucero's answer to Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" (or -- last Adams reference, I swear -- Whiskeytown's cover of Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown"). With its wild guitar solo and dark edges ("I got enough hate and jealousy inside me to keep me warm"), "Hate and Jealousy" is the kind of song that will keep the genre's fans happy; dude, it rocks. Ditto for "Tonight Ain't Gonna be Good", with its Marc Bolanesque flourishes and the moody "Tears Don't Matter Much", both of which leave you realizing that Nichols was put on this planet to sing punked-up country -- soulful, pained and raspy.

Of course, the flipside of all the up-tempo footstompers is a handful of slower songs that don't quite hit the mark as frequently as their more-rocking brethren. "Sad and Lonely" lives up to its title, though its dirge is offset by Nichols's keyboard flourishes. Other slow songs like "Across the River" and "The Only One" don't exactly plod, but they may make you impatient waiting for the upbeat songs. Yes, I realize that the best alt-country albums marry rockers with ballads (think "Drown" and "Tear-Stained Eye" off Son Volt's Trace), but I'd rather play air guitar than cry into my beer.

Country and punk have been bedfellows for a long time -- Williams, Cash, the Mekons, John Doe and Exene Cervenka, Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, etc. -- and bands like Lucero prove that their forebears had the right idea mixing the two. Just because the genre's leading light has disowned his past (so I lied about not mentioning you-know-who again) doesn't mean that the scene is dead. Granted, if That Much Further West came out in, say, 1995, when alt-country artists enjoyed brief mainstream success, this album could have been (sorta) big. But it's 2003, and Lucero is happy merely doing its own thing.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less

Alt-rock heroes the Foo Fighters deliver a three-hour blast of rock power that defies modern norms.

It's a Saturday night in Sacramento and the downtown area around the swank new Golden 1 Center is buzzing as if people are waiting for a spaceship to appear because the alt-rock heroes known as the Foo Fighters are in town. Dave Grohl and his band of merry mates have carried the torch for 20th-century rock 'n' roll here in the next millennium like few others, consistently cranking out one great guitar-driven album after another while building a cross-generational appeal that enables them to keep selling out arenas across America.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.