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LOCAL H (Buy CDs by this artist)
Ham Fisted (Island) 1995
As Good as Dead (Island) 1996
Pack Up the Cats (Island) 1998
The No Fun EP (Thick) 2003

Long before there was a White Stripes, Local H joined the Spinanes, House of Freaks and others in the underpopulated guitarist-and-drummer corps — but doubled those bands' aggression to a roaring grunge assault and adding bitter, funny lyrics. The Zion, Illinois twosome (the remnants of a quartet formed in 1990) covers its bottom through Scott Lucas' specially outfitted axe and an octave splitter. Technically true to the first album's claim of basslessness, Lucas (who plays bass notes on his low strings while slashing away at chords and strain- singing in a raw voice) and hard-hammering Joe Daniels manage to sound like a full-spectrum band — and a 140- proof one at that. Tucking a few Cheap Trick textures and hooks into the mid-tempo punk roar (shades of the frenzied Couch Flambeau), the duo rips through numbers like "Mayonnaise and Malaise" and "Chicago Fanphair '93" with intense conviction, fortifying average songwriting with stirring performances. (The stylistic exception is the album-closing "Grrrlfriend," a brief, quiet pop ballad: "I'm in love with a riot grrrl / I'm a boy and I know that that's bad.") Although far more impressive live, when Lucas' gimmicky feat is plainly visible, Ham Fisted still offers an entertaining haymaker of cranked- up, stripped-down '95 noise.

As Good as Dead keeps the rock hard while bringing sturdier material to the effort, which only serves to underscore the band's creative debt to Nevermind- era Nirvana. Not that it really matters; Local H's songs are catchy and abrasive in the best possible way. If Presidents of the United States of America's record can capture the public imagination, this album has many of the same sonic virtues, plus the extra sleeve-tugger of sizzling aggression. "High-Fiving Motherfucker" is a hysterical putdown ("Got no taste in music / And you really love our band / Your haircut is atrocious / Been the same since '83"), while the acoustic half of "No Problem" saws away more quietly yet still draws blood. Despite the slam promised by the lob title of "Eddie Vedder," the angry song only goes as far as wondering "If I was Eddie Vedder / Would you like me any better?" It's a start...

[Ira Robbins]