The Absolute Beginners EP (G&P)
by Scott Deckman
Scott Lucas & the Married Men is a side-project by Local H’s Scott Lucas, known for loud, exciting rock that has spanned post-grunge, classic rock, and even a sliver or two of hardcore. He has shown, however, a pop ear for ballads: See Pack Up the Cats‘ superb “Lucky Time.” With the Married Men, he pushes the singer/songwriter side to the fore, featuring lyrics more heartfelt and less angry, with personal lovelorn angst replacing his usual cynical crankiness.
On The Absolute Beginners EP, he begins things with the Bowie cover and record namesake, but adds a squalling guitar solo at the end of an up-tempo waltz. All three of his original songs are different takes on previously recorded tunes, including “Crosshairs,” one of two numbers released earlier on the band’s first full-length, George Lassos the Moon. “Crosshairs” has a prosaic feel, reminiscent of “Hey, Rita” from Local H’s Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles? It also has a U2 “Mothers of the Disappeared” resonance to it, almost triumphant. And this, of course, is funny because of what he covers next: “Hey, Rita,” one of the best songs he’s ever written. Here he cuts the distortion and adds an accordion. It has a weird effect of seeming to slow the song down, even though it’s played a hair faster. A longer interpretation that includes a new extension and further lyrics, it’s not quite as good as the original, but that’s like asking AC/DC to play “Back in Black” unplugged. It’s still a valid and interesting take on an overlooked standout. And these new sounds may be made by an accordion, but they sure sound like milder Scottish bagpipes or some sort of hybrid. Whatever, the accordion, organ, and violin he employs during the EP’s recording brings an odd, traditional texture to the music. I’m not sure what heritage Lucas claims, but you walk away from The Absolute Beginners EP wanting to wear a kilt, drink a large, full-bodied pint of beer, and ensconced in a general U.K. frame of mind.
What Scott Lucas does claim with his Married Men is that he’s a musician at heart who doesn’t need Local H’s sonic heft to be heard, that he’s just as comfortable without distortion on one of those electric guitars he plays as he is with it, though it must be noted that he does end things with an extended guitar romp on closer “Last One.” So he does feel the need to let everyone know “this is the Local H guy” after all that soft and sweet. That’s fine. Play on, young man.