Well, now that Ryan Adams is off in La La land, as his sound achingly closes in on rubbish with each and every release, what is an alt-rock/ country/ punk fan to do? Well, remain calm and keep your hopes confident, because Lucero is every chocolate in Forrest Gump's box.
Originally formed by frontman Ben Nichols in '98 as a plot to enrage punkers by playing Country-rock at hardcore shows, the Memphis quartet's sound seemed to have impressed some listeners who are now several years older, with much more progressed, mature musical tastes whom are cult-like fans of the band, Lucero. Defined as a bright star in Spanish, Lucero, who dropped two records on the Memphis indie outfit label, Majack, relocated to New York and now reside with the more eclectic and aggressive label, Tiger Style.
The standout piece of Lucero is defined by head honcho, Ben Nichols. Once rumored to have switched to country because punk was too difficult to hold melodies too (or was that spoken from the lips of that moron, Ryan Adams...?), Nichols' voice is a combination of Scott Stapp and Kurt Cobain. More so than the Creed front man, Nichols is a southern extension of the late, prolific Cobain. Nichols' voice is chiseled. Rather it seems to be the product of one to many Marlboros and white russians. Raw Dirge with a scratchy-smooth bellowing thickness. His vocal melodies are attention grabbing and dominate the music.
The twelve song disc begins with the title track, "That Much Further West," a lyrics-heavy track which provides southern imagery, "Out West the only sky is blue, so tell hate I'll see her soon, 'Til the thoughts and I have left, Are that much further West..." The shifty tempos of "Mine Tonight," are beaming with rhythm, "Sad and Lonely" is a deep fried Southern ballad which accentuates the power in Nichols' voice. "Across the River," possesses amazing guitar and organ interaction while "Hate and Jealousy" is a country heavy track with a stunning guitar solo that interweaves between a driving, chord strumming acoustic. The song details the thoughts of a man who discovers one of his children is a bastard product from an adulterous affair, "Helplessness just burns me up inside, I can't see the savior for the light, One of yours might not be right, I want nothing that ain't really mine." "Tears Don't Matter Much," is reminiscent of the old Whiskeytown sound with its peaks and banjo mimicking guitar which perfectly court the hopeful lyrics, "I'm just another Southern Boy, who dreams of nights in NYC, and I sing along..."
Overall the instrumental foundation of the record stems from guitar, bass and drums while the country flavor is further underscored with a bizarre touch of organ or piano. Instrumentally the record is strong, yet on "When You Decided to Leave," Lucero attempts, unsuccessfully to get experimental as they add a techno breakbeat. Perhaps it is not the song that is shattering, but rather the fact that the track does not follow suit with the flow of the album. Reckless experimenting aside, Lucero is budding with star power and should soon depart the play lists of KUCI. This record summed up, is Ryan Adams, Wilco, and Kurt Cobain.