Lucero – Nobody’s Darlings

Nobody’s Darlings

I’ll tell you something that’s not easy to admit. There’s definitely a snobbish quality to being an indie-music fan. You know it, too. You want to like bands that are purposefully unique and clever, even if the music isn’t really quite as good as some of those major-label retreads. As critics, we pan bands that follow formula, even while we bob our heads to the music and sing the catchy choruses. And while we laud the latest band to push the envelope with experimentation and instrumentation, we tend to forget that, at the basis of all these bands, is good ol’ rock ‘n roll.

Lucero is a rock ‘n roll band, and it’s a damn good rock band. If you no longer care for rock ‘n roll, go elsewhere, because these guys are going to hit you with catchy choruses, powerful electric guitar riffs, guitar breakdowns, and a good ol’ Southern swagger courtesy of Ben Nichols’ ever-present drawl. The band that won me over, a few albums ago, to its own brand of alt-country has now won me over to Southern rock. Sheer talent and songwriting will do that. The band sings “now shut up and play that guitar” on the title track, and that’s a good message to the non-believers.

The album opens with a kick-ass rock song and doesn’t stop from there. “Watch it Burn” is an upbeat blazer, with thick guitars and lyrics like “come on down and watch it all burn, uh huh huh.” It doesn’t overstay its welcome, ending before the next power guitar riffs come in to “Anjalee.” But this track allows the band’s penchant for heartfelt songs to come through, as xx manages to convey his deep feeling with lyrics like “Tell Anjalee I love her best,” his vocals a bit slower than the song would suggest.

The following songs run the gambit of rock, from the almost punky “Bikeriders” to the gorgeously personal “Sixteen” to the pure all-out blazer “California.” “Hold Me Close” is a perfectly placed moody track, not slow enough to be a ballad and lacking the band’s traditional acoustic approach but nonetheless lovely and heartfelt, with Nichols’ voice absolutely convincing. Songs like “The Last Night in Town” bring back classic rock in all its glory, and I defy you not to sing along with lines like “Momma I ain’t your only son / ain’t no fairytales, it’s just how it’s done / drink it up boys, it’s the last night in town / it’s too late to turn back now” and maybe pump your fists in the air. The acoustic guitar makes itself felt on the closer, “The War,” a song not necessarily in protest but about the realities of being a soldier in the war.

I wonder if the album title is a reference to Lucero’s lack of label. The band’s last album was released on the departed Tiger Style, and this one was done all on the band’s own. But I would be extremely surprised if the band stayed unsigned. Regardless of the ever-fickle market, the cream rises to the crop. Lucero won’t be nobody’s darlings for long.