By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
A lot of rock writers got excited about the Chicago band Local H's 1998 album Pack Up the Cats, a concept piece about a small-town rocker's bid for big-time success, because it convincingly resuscitated the obviously flagging mode of music originally popularized by workhorse Midwestern outfits like Styx and REO Speedwagon--late '70s/early '80s groups that stung with the thud of Zeppelin and Sabbath but floated with the tunefulness of the hair metal that was just revving up (or of the Carpenters singles those bands secretly played on the tour bus during those long treks across the plains). They even got legendary producer Roy Thomas Baker, who twirled the countless knobs involved in making "Bohemian Rhapsody" (and less ambitious work by Journey and Foreigner), to helm the record.
Yet however firmly Cats fixed Local H as hearty keepers of the hard-rock flame, on its new one, Here Comes the Zoo, the band doesn't do anything so much as get embroiled in a game of Six Degrees of Dave Grohl.
Here's how it goes:
1. Singer-guitarist Scott Lucas has often been called a successor to Kurt Cobain's tradition, the one where you balance noise and melody, angst and dark humor. In the post-Nevermind free-for-all that was the record industry in the mid-'90s, Local H became Island Records' shot at alt-rock glory, scoring a minor hit in "Bound for the Floor" (known to radio listeners as "The Copacetic Song"). Ultimately, those hopes were dashed as Island was folded into the monolithic Universal Music Group and Cats got lost in the shuffle--a sad anticlimax with which any Nirvana fan can relate.
2. Queen of the Stone Age's Josh Homme guests on Zoo's "Rock & Roll Professionals," one of several songs on the album that contains a whiff of the Southern Californian stoner rock Homme brought to the mainstream in 2000 with the Queens' stellar Rated R. (Another is the nine-minute meltdown "Baby Wants to Tame Me.") Grohl is a huge fan of and is currently playing drums with the Queens.
3. Lucas also occasionally resembles--purposefully or not--Grohl favorite Andrew W.K., a metal-loving misfit from Michigan whose forthcoming I Get Wet sounds something like if Roy Thomas Baker had fronted the Misfits (whose Jerry Only also guests on Zoo).
4. Roy Thomas Baker fronting the Misfits: What more did you need exactly?