On a previous review of Local H’s latest awesomeness, we learned how something like a few choice tribute songs and their sheer potency of delivery changes the whole game. Today, we get to visit a related topic, something that deserves a healthy mention. If Awesome Mixtape #1 is the ultimate “tell your high school friends” collection of in-your-face cover songs, Scott Lucas has delivered the companion piece — your prom, in a nutshell.
Scott Lucas & The Married Men is a project that culminated from a week-long portion of a year-long separation of Lucas and his girlfriend. Lucas began writing songs daily to try and win his girl back, eventually leading to an album’s worth of material and the decision to loose it upon the world under the Married Men moniker. In the words of Huey Lewis, “That’s the power of love.” The Absolute Beginners EP is the flip side to one of two Local H masterminds — echoes of violin, accordion, and somber tones. This is Lucas’ softer side, the APC to Local H’s Tool.
Gentler and better produced overall than the band’s first full-length, we open the set with a cover of David Bowie’s “Absolute Beginners” for which this EP was named (a song that, by Lucas’ claims, is the most romantic tune ever). If you are a Bowie fan, you will immediately notice its dramatic shift in tone, creating what syncs with the album art — a dancing couple frozen in time, innocent and fresh. You get the vibe that might have been intended in Bowie’s original, or perhaps this is a new take altogether. Either way, it’s doubly impressive and a far cry from anything Lucas has ever done with Local H.
Second track “Crosshairs” and closing song “Last One” are reworkings from Scott Lucas & The Married Men’s previous release, and the added efforts shine through spectacularly. Not only do both tunes increase in length (“Crosshairs” nearly doubles to the 6+ mark), but the intimacy and care from this outfit’s table is brightly apparent. The cleaner production feels textured and blissful; it brings out slow-dance songs for everyone who grew up in the new millennium. On that note, “Crosshairs” goes from semi-folksy to The Wallflowers’ “Into The Mystic” rendition; this could be misconstrued as a flaw depending upon who you ask, but to me, it makes the song much prettier and allowing it to reach a vaster audience.
“Hey, Rita”, a cover of Local H’s tune from 2004’s Whatever Happened To P.J. Soles?, gets chalked between Lucas’ affiliation with Local H (50% share, in fact) and the knowledge of this song’s pop potency; still packing a punch, “Hey, Rita” is mildly transformed from slower Local H to harder Married Men, a transition which bears a flaw. My advice on a cover of your own previous act’s material is to make a new mark with it; though “Hey, Rita” is very different in ways, the original flavor resounds toward the end, leaving a hiccup in the EP’s total vibe.
The debut release, George Lassos The Moon, has a quaint lo-fidelity kick, a turn of the tides for Lucas. On Absolute Beginners, the sonic variety he and his gang create flourishes tremendously. Does it feel as sincere as The Moon? Not entirely, no, but it holds its own — a fond follow-up EP of reworked material, a band finding its footing somewhere pleasant. I dare say that this EP is not a landmark per se, but it glitters in subtlety through the shadow of sharper sounds — the nuance of Rebecca Manthe’s violin, Tom Szidon’s multitasking piano hands, and of course, Lucas’ spot-on lyrical depth. If this is where you want your head, I suggest picking this record up. Maybe transfer it to cassette, play it in the tape deck of your first sedan, park somewhere near the old stompin’ grounds, and reminisce a while. Sometimes, looking forward is much easier once you’ve reflected on the past a bit.