Review Summary: A wonderful slice of apathy and cynicism that's just as punk-oriented as it is grunge-oriented.
Back when the heavyweights of grunge like Nirvana and Alice in Chains were beginning to descend in popularity, Local H were one of many bands who were kinda chilling in the background of this declining scene. It's a real shame that they never got huge during the post-grunge boom either, because they've proven to be one of the most unique bands in grunge music, if primarily because of their interesting setup and that they almost reach Cake's level of sarcasm and cynicism. And despite the immense levels of distortion and volume you might hear, it's all coming from just two people: Guitarist/bassist/vocalist Scott Lucas and (for this album and many of their other albums) drummer Joe Daniels. Just like Lightning Bolt, however, these guys are incredibly resourceful with their minimal member count. But the other thing that sets the band apart is their atmosphere; if I could use one word to describe it, I'd say it's very "suburban." There's a heavy layer of summer nostalgia coating the band's music, even during the more aggressive moments of their work. But, in the end, there was one Local H album that was able to breach the mainstream charts, even for just a short while: As Good as Dead
Despite being released during the beginning stages of post-grunge music, it's very clear on As Good as Dead
that Local H are much more influenced by the rawer bands of the early 90s than their more polished counterparts. Punk elements run rampant on songs like "Back in the Day," "High-Fiving MF," "I Saw What You Did and I Know Who You Are," among others, but just like Nirvana before them, one of Local H's greatest strengths is that they combine accessibility and intensity so well. Perhaps this is why something like "Bound for the Floor" was such a popular hit; listeners get the distorted guitar and increased heaviness of the chorus to enjoy, while also being intrigued by the reflective and melancholic verses played with a much cleaner guitar tone. Speaking of which, the softer songs here tend to be really
downbeat and oppressive. "No Problem" is a bit lighthearted, being in a major key and all, but tunes like "Bound for the Floor" and closer "Manifest Destiny Pt. 2" (not to mention its Pt. 1 counterpart) are seriously bleak and downcast numbers that definitely represent the darker side of grunge music. There's also very much an apathy and lethargy involved in the album as a whole, despite the hard-hitting drum work and precise guitar work throughout, but it all just adds to the grungy aspects of the album and gives it personality.
When you get down to it, though, balance is key. Local H have honed both their punk and alternative rock sounds in a near-perfect blend here, the songs just as brutal and cynical as they are thought-provoking and melancholic. Instrumentally, this experience is incredibly tight; Joe Daniels tends to be incredibly blunt during the faster songs like "High-Fiving MF" and "Fritz's Corner," but also engages in some pretty remarkable displays of subtlety and restraint during the softer pieces; for instance, the lengthy ballad "O.K." wouldn't be nearly as effective without Daniels' more minimalist and simplistic approach. But as usual, it's Scott Lucas who steals the show. His voice perfectly fits the apathetic music, the guitar playing ranges from beautifully soft to crushingly heavy, the bass work follows suit in a precise and controlled fashion, and the atmosphere he gives this album is just as clearly conveyed as each instrument he plays. Some people may not take a liking to the "laziness" and snarkiness a lot of his vocal performances contain, but I think they add a lot to the overall feel of the record. But if there's one thing I'm not so wild about, it's some of the repetition of the album. There's not a ton of it, but it can occasionally bog down the experience; the final song, for instance, really didn't need to be such a long conclusion. It would have been nice to hear a short interlude-long reprise of the intro instead of a full song that goes nowhere.
Oh well. Slight gripe aside, As Good as Dead
is great for anyone seeking out some great grunge or post-grunge music from one of the most underrated rock groups out there. If you like Nirvana, Mudhoney, L7, or Green River, this is definitely a wonderful listen. Local H might have been "Bound for the Floor" in regards to commercial success, but there's so much here to admire for both punk and alternative rock listeners.