Whatever Happened To P.J. Soles? (Studio E)
By Scott Deckman
Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles? I was wondering the same thing too, or more aptly, I was wondering who the hell she was in the first place. A quick search and I found out all I needed: This is Scott Lucas’ paean to all things pubescent. You may remember Soles, the blithe blonde who starred alongside Jamie Lee Curtis in the John Carpenter horror classic Halloween and Sissy Spacek in Carrie. She was even seen carousing with Lucas heroes the Ramones in the cult-kitsch classic Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. Whatever may’ve happened to her, the music on this, Local H‘s fifth full release, borrows that era’s badass guitar thwack of AC/DC-cum-Aerosmith, with plenty of prog from that period as well.
A disjointed affair, caught somewhere between 1998’s concept opus Pack Up the Cats and 2002’s high-octane but less linear (and criminally underrated) Here Comes the Zoo, …P.J. Soles? sees the band at their melodic, rockin’ best one minute, and at their stoner lethargic nadir the next. Such potpourri wasn’t totally unexpected (anyone who paid attention to last year’s No Fun EP knows what I mean), and who says vocalist/guitarist Scott Lucas and drummer Brian St. Clair have anything to prove anymore?
“You’re never, you’re never, you’re never gonna get it!” Lucas rails on the first song, “Where Are They Now?,” either a call to hipster detractors who’ve never forgiven him for “Bound for the Floor” off 1996’s post-grunge breakout As Good as Dead, or maybe just his version of the truth. A more difficult animal, …P.J. Soles? hardly sports the readymade hits of the former. Rocker “Everyone Alive” leaps into “California Songs,” the album’s first single, with its sinister bass line and exploding verse-chorus vitriol lambasting the golden state, a tune that in a saner world would be a hit.
The dreamy follow-up, “Dick Jones,” appeals to the nuevo hesher and boasts the unforgettable line “You’re on your fifth drink with no buzz in sight/And that asshole hasn’t shut up all night.” But it also introduces a blurry half-baked revival that effectively makes a potentially exceptional album merely a good one: Note to singer, 10-minute songs are rarely necessary when you have melodic cache. But the goods, the anthemic almost-title track, the scorching “Heavy Metal Bakesale,” and especially the nostalgic “Halcyon Days,” neo-Dylan “Hey, Rita” (swear to God), and its prequel, “Heaven on the Way Down,” are such finely-nuanced pop songs that they more than make up for Lucas’ prog jones.
Let’s just hope that heaven’s still in the sky and Local H keeps reaching for the stars.