It's hard to keep your identity and stay relevant as a rock band that has been writing and recording music for 25 years. There aren't many examples like Chicago rockers Local H. They are kind of an anomaly in the music industry as many bands don't make it past their first album. Their latest opus Hallelujah, I'm a Bum deserves "Top 5" honors for these reasons alone. But to commuters in the Second City, this record means so much more. You could almost say it defines us.
As Chicagoans, many of us spend our days peering out the windows of trains, or buses. It seems like our lives pass before us in the reflection of these windows, much of it twisted into blurred shapes and colors. As our reflections stare back at us, we contemplate the meaning of life. "Who am I?/What am I doing with my life?/How many more stops until I get off this thing?" When Scott Lucas sings "Counting stops along the Blue Line," it feels authentic. As we make our way to and from work each day, this is what we do.
When we are afforded to much time to think, we begin second guessing our choices. Things get worse quickly when our space is invaded and people start to disrespect each other. We begin despise the people across from us. The scum who litter, who eat rancid food in close quarters, and those too entitled to offer a pregnant woman their seat.
"It's getting hard to realize/A sense of self in other eyes/It's us and them."
This angst and indifference becomes the underlying theme to a tune that started as a reflection on life. It then takes a turn to feelings of loss and time lost on the "Blue Line."
"There's nothing left here to be saved/Just barreling dogs and barking trains/Another year lost to the Blue Line."
Again, significant because it brings together many aspects of our lives, all boiling down to a train ride. How many stops are we away from our destination...or our destiny?
"Look Who's Walking On Four Legs Again" shows a band unafraid of change, taking on a new persona. I had mentioned earlier that assuming new identities has helped this band stay relevant, and this gem is a perfect example! They shed their skin here, something I wish "Corgan's Smashing Pumpkins" could do. They leave their trademark sound for a minute and jump into a new one. It shows growth, and feels refreshing, which keeps the fans coming back.
"Limit Your Change" stinks of Nirvana, but that's a good smell. Listen to that grungy guitar tone drone on for a minute and you'll hear what I'm saying. Now they are back on point with what they do best; grunge rock.
The epic ending comes to us in the anthemic "Waves," as the album shows transcendence.
"We get set free in waves again/Jesus saves again (again)/But no one wises up/So no one will rise up."
It feels good to sing, and it feels like a true ending. After all the ups and downs of 'Bum, Lucas takes us out on a rocking wave of positivity.
I love this record for the diversity and freedom that flows throughout. Hallelujah, I'm a Bum has it all and more.