I had been looking forward to the new Lucero disc since I first heard about it, as 2003’s That Much Further West was one of the best albums of that year. “Watch It Burn” looks back more to bands like The Replacements and Husker Du instead of Uncle Tupelo, infusing each track on “Nobody’s Darlings” with more rock. The guitar work on tracks like “Anjalee” maintain the same aura of road-trips, and lead vocalist Ben’s work ties together with eir throat Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, and Johnny Rzeznik. The straight-forward assault of “Bikeriders” shucks the nuanced sound of the band for an increased emotional investment; looking back to the early nineties alternative style as well as Tim Armstrong, Lucero really make leaps of faith throughout “Nobody’s Darlings.” Lucero attempts some major things during “Nobody’s Darlings”, and even if they can not claim victory at all points, the fact is that they actually experiment, instead of being stuck in one specific paradigm. The disc’s title track is an example of this experimentation, and even if Ben’s vocals can not drag the weight of the track, it is not through a lack in intensity.
The vacillation that Lucero does throughout this disc, moving between more sedate, “That Much Further West”-styled tracks and the speedier and more punk-influenced tracks like “California”. A third type of track really comes to fruition during the Neil Young-influenced “Noon As Dark As Midnight”, which has to be an instant classic. The meandering vocals of Ben during the track stand above anything else on this disc, and the chaotic guitar lines really break down the idea of a track necessarily having to be orderly to be memorable. The poignant and fitting bass lines of John provide a great surface for which Ben can play off of, especially during tracks like “Hold Me Close”.
Lucero have created an entirely new sound for themselves during “Nobody’s Darlings” that might brush fans of “That Much Further West” the wrong way. This is not part deux of that album, and I for one am damn excited that the band has not been resting on their laurels the last few years. The entirety of “Nobody’s Darlings” crackles with a new-found energy that was just not to be found on the previous album. The rich mix of tracks on this album will ensure that the greatest amount of listeners will find at least one worthwhile track and give the rest of the disc a shot.
Top Tracks: Bikeriders, California
Lucero – Nobody’s Darlings / 2005 Liberty & Lament / 12 Tracks / http://www.lucerofamily.net / Reviewed 21 April 2005