The name, the Lonely H, makes me think of two things. For one, it sounds like the name of a dude ranch, like the `Rocking R’ or the `Lazy Q,’ but of course, it would be a dude ranch that doubles as a rehab center for emo kids. The other possibility for the name would be a kids’ picture book. It is, naturally, about a lonely letter of the alphabet, searching for a complementary letter. Little H travels around, sad and lonely, meeting other letters on his journey. For instance, our hero meets a wandering S and is silenced (Sh). He meets an O and is startled (Oh!, not the other way around, it’d be too startling for the kiddies). He meets an M and is puzzled (Hm). Finally after much searching, he comes across a lonely I, and they get together and say hello (Hi). Awwww…isn’t that just the cutest? With the Lonely H’s first album, Kick Upstairs, this adorable story would have fit right in with the group’s squeaky clean high school image, but a second album changes the storyline dramatically. Hair is the sophomore album from Port Angeles, Washington’s five-piece who previously wrote Weezer-like tunes about video games, but fans shouldn’t expect it to be the next Pinkerton.
Reportedly, The Lonely H were inspired in their new sound by flipping through their parents’ respective record collections and unearthing nuggets from the seventies. Forget the ’90s music that the kids grew up with like Nirvana, the aforementioned Weezer, Harvey Danger and a host of other formerly like-minded acts. Now the young `uns have discovered Sweet, Badfinger, Thin Lizzy, Bad Company and Blue Öyster Cult, and they’re ready to rock! Unfortunately, Hair doesn’t so much come out smelling like a consistent retro rock record, it sounds instead like someone forgot to take their Dad’s iPod off of shuffle mode. Nor does this album have any relation to the ’60s musical of the same name. The Lonely H don’t so much `let the sunshine in’ as blot out the sun with borrowed riffs, a temple of worship at the altar of The White Album, and, yes, massive heads of hair. Unfortunately, locks are the only things that have seemed to grow since the band’s debut album. It’s like the five members of the band were locked in a room, Clockwork Orange-style, forced to watch Almost Famous over and over again. To be fair, maybe their sense of sarcastic humor has grown as well, considering the photo of the boys draped across an old beater pickup truck, each cradling a rifle as if ready to star in a musical version of Deliverance. At least, I hope that’s sarcasm.
The first two songs, “Just Don’t Know” and “The Meal,” go by like men in black. In other words, they may as well have not even existed they’re so unnoticeable. Not so with “Rollin’,” however, which is actually quite a decent little ballad, proving, along with their debut, that the band does have strengths, but choose not to concentrate on them. “The Drought” is another slower song that showcases the band’s true talents, but unfortunately for them, Hair is not an EP. You see, “For Barbara,” a song that makes me believe Wolfmother had some little baby wolfies, follows “The Drought,” and those lupine offspring couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be Franz Ferdinand or Golden Earring. “Hair” merely apes Southern rock powerhouses like Skynyrd, and not very well. “It doesn’t make any sense / It’s all nonsense,” indeed. “Captain” tries desperately to be a lost track from The White Album, and is not so bad musically, but as I warned the youngsters in my review of the comparatively refreshing Kick Upstairs, they should merely shy away from anything remotely attempting to mimic the greatest band of all time. “Say Your Prayers” is the penultimate track, giving its listeners the most sage advice in a title. The song is another ’70s 8-track spoof, complete with background `yeah yeahs’ that reek of bell bottoms, gold chains and flying V’s. The breakdown mid-song is cringe and chuckle worthy. “It’s Not Right” is how the Lonely H decides to close the record, and I just thank these boys so much for making these song names so easy to use against them. Because, guess what, it’s not right.
I suppose if you’re really into BTO or Argent and at the same time want to see some fresh faces playing monster arena rock, then the Lonely H’s new album might just be your bag. Otherwise, realize that this is a band that is taking some awkward first steps after some initial local success, inevitably taking some Maggie Simpson-like falls on their faces. I’m not really this mean all the time. I actually really enjoyed these guys’ first effort. It’s just that the album really isn’t that good, and bad reviews are sometimes more fun to write than good ones. When you listen to as many albums and write as many reviews as I do, you find you just can’t sugarcoat every last turkey. The good news is that the Lonely H are still young, still learning and can always get better. They play well enough, but they have to find their own sound. Oddly enough, there was more originality in their first album than in their second. Take heart, plenty of bands have come back from a sophomore slump (haven’t they?). Plus, I’ve given them a great fallback idea for a children’s book. All is well.
Various Artists- That 70’s Show Presents That 70’s Album: Rockin’
Bad Company- Straight Shooter