Talk about working a record: since Local H released Pack Up the Cats in September 1998 they’ve played 21 shows around town and God knows how many elsewhere. Like a shark, singer-guitarist Scott Lucas has had to keep moving to stay alive. Just as the album was released, Island Records’ parent company was eaten by Universal Music Group, and the usual corporate restructuring left Lucas and drummer Joe Daniels out in the cold. Fed up with the machinations of the music business after 11 years, Daniels threw in the towel and Lucas replaced him with Brian St. Clair, late of Triple Fast Action. The two have been touring ever since, showing up in town every few months while hammering out 25 new songs, ten of which are featured on the forthcoming Here Comes the Zoo (Palm Pictures). A few years back you couldn’t read anything about Local H without seeing some reference to Nirvana; now a review on tries to frame the band as stoner rock, citing a guest appearance by Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. Local H has covered both Nirvana and the Queens onstage recently, but also AC/DC, Joan Jett, and Cheap Trick, bowing not to any one band but to the grand tradition of 70s album rock. And while Lucas’s steel-wool scream may always conjure memories of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” he has his own way with a hook, whether it’s the half-step guitar lick punctuating “Half-Life,” the wire-hanger chorus on “Son of ‘Cha!,'” the industry-schmoozer call and response on “Rock & Roll Professionals,” or the decadent cheer delivered by guest vocalist Shanna Kiel on “5th Ave. Crazy” (“Oh my God, I love you so / That’s all you need to know / Give me money, give me blow / Don’t slow down, ’cause red means go”). Four years is long enough for any band to lose the plot, but in Lucas’s case it was time well spent: Here Comes the Zoo hits like a boulder dropped from a very tall building. Saturday, February 23, 9 PM, Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln; 773-404-9494.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Clay Patrick McBride.