Condemned to history’s cutout bin, fit snuggly up against Paw’s Dragline and the Urge Overkill record that didn’t have “Sister Havana,” Local H’s Pack Up the Cats deserves better.
City Pages Dramarama apologist Keith Harris noted that it’s a record he cannot imagine anyone under 30 enjoying, and he’s not wrong. Guitar-driven rock not made by Dave Grohl or I guess Imagine Dragons may as well be ragtime or country swing to modern ears. But for me, 47 and raised on KQRS and 120 Minutes in equal measure, it checks every box.
The Zion, Illinois, duo of Scott Lucas and Joe Daniels were fresh off a 1996 single, “Bound for the Floor,” that made them one-hit alt-rock wonders. You may know it as the “keep it copacetic” song your uncle cranked on the way to Edgefest:
In a sentence that crumbles to dust as you read it, I bought their follow-up CD at the St. Cloud Media Play based on a rave review in SPIN Magazine. It even had a bonus disc with a terrific AC/DC cover and some audio spackle. You know exactly what you’re in for within the first five seconds:
I heard a snippet of “All Right (Oh Yeah)” on an episode of ER (30:05 mark, roughly; please enjoy celebrity kickboxer Billy Blanks in a cameo), and that is the extent to which Pack Up the Cats had an impact on the popular culture of the late Clinton years.
Which is a bummer, because the rest of the album is a self-aware bounty of grunge/straight-up rock nuggets that might have made them a fucking mint in 1994. Produced by Roy Thomas Baker, godfather of every good song on the Power Loon family of radio stations, it is to the Trans Am born. The triptych of “Hit The Skids/500,000 Scovilles/What Can I Tell You” really oughta be Gen X’s own deathless “Foreplay/Long Time.” And “What Can I Tell You” will make you want to buy a dirty jean jacket on the way to meeting that day’s step goals:
The lone single from the album, “All the Kids Are Right,” saw what was coming for Local H, whether they knew it at the time or not:
All the kids, they hold a grudge
Their minds are logged onto the net
And all the kids, they hold a grudge
You fail them and they won't forget it
All the kids, they're tired and turn away
They saw what you did
You're all wrong and all the kids are right
The kids turned away, and the intervening 20 years have seen neither a grunge nor a Local H renaissance. Lead dude Lucas still plugs away with a handful of different drummers, churning out records and playing live shows to the true believers. Their post-Pack Up the Cats discography is scattered with worthy cuts, including a lovingly metal version of Brit’s “Toxic”:
They still get to MSP now and then. (Last fall, they opened for fellow lifers the Toadies in the Mainroom. I couldn’t go because I had to take my kid to dance practice.) They’re back in town on Saturday, supporting a vinyl re-release of Pack Up the Cats and playing it front-to-back at Amsterdam. I will be right in front. There’s no dance practice on weekends.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3
Tickets: 21+; $18/$23; more info here