Local H might be one of the last bands that truly create long players, or LP's. That might be an overstatement, but in a world where $0.99 singles rule, it's becoming less commonplace to make a good album. What I should say is that it's rare to hear full length albums that you can listen to from start to finish. When Local H puts out a record, each song has a place and fits together like a puzzle. It's no different with their latest effort, Hallelujah! I'm A Bum.
The album begins with a ride on the El train, something many Chicagoans are familiar with. This mode of transportation has become a staple in our lives. These natural sounds taken from subway platforms and the inside of train cars, provide an insight into our daily lives. Not just how we travel to work, but rather a lifeblood to our city. If you live in Chicago, you know these sounds by heart: "Next stop Diversey. Doors open on the right at Diversey." The sound of that automated conductor is etched in our DNA. Hearing this sound on record brought a smile to my face, "What a great concept." Throughout the LP there are snippets of trains coming and going, people talking in cars, even a live performance from down on the platform, "Cold and Mannered." This is Chicago...
As an insider I take ownership of these sounds. The El is part of me; a Chicago thing. As an outsider these sounds are the glue holding the songs together, structuring the album. A few listens gave way to a small addiction. Now I want a shot everyday. "Feed A Fever," is a tangy piece of ear candy, screaming for radio play. "Look Who's Walking On Four Legs Again" smacks of Jeff Tweedy. Local H does a better version of Wilco than Wilco does of themselves these days. Hallelujah! I'm A Bum is the complete package, akin to an emotional roller coaster, with ups and downs in all the right spots. For example, steel guitars have you going alt country on "Four Legs," only to be slapped in the face by the aggressive guitar rock of "Ruling Kind," where they finish the song off doing a better Smashing Pumpkins...well, you get the rest. Hell, even hints at Nirvana are here on "They Saved Reagan's Brain."
The best of Chicago is here, truly. Albums are not put together like this anymore. Now days they are put together around one big single, fluffed out with filler. There are a minimum of five solid radio singles on 'Bum, with nothing but serious songwriting in between. After taking a back seat to the Chicago music scene for years, it's time for "H" to ride shotgun and lead us out of this stagnant water we have been swimming in. If this is what it feels like to be a bum, then hallelujah, I'm a bum too!
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