Out of Zion

So it's come to this: multitudes of baby bands scouring the legacy of Kurt Cobain for anything usable -- and selling lots of CDs by incorporating what they find. Someone dubbed the trend "scrunge" (whoever he or she was must have combined scourge with grunge), and back in 1995 almost everyone predicted its speedy demise. But two years later -- bless the thieving hearts of Bush and Silverchair -- it seems scrunge is here to stay.

If that's nothing you haven't heard before, then chances are that Local H's brand of Seattle-by-way-of-Middle America sound might strike you as equally prosaic. On Good as Dead, the band's new CD, loud, dirty guitars and burly grooves fraternize with acerbic, lost-generation sentiments soured by rage, antagonism and nasty revenge scenarios. Whether Cobain would be impressed or incensed by how avidly Local H picks over his repertoire we'll never know. But one thing's for sure: This suburban angst stuff sounds familiar. And when Local H are through with Nirvana, I'm sure they could whip up a heck of a Pixies tribute. Black Francis is back there somewhere on Good as Dead; I can hear his heavy breathing.

Still, a few redeeming traits set this Illinois duo apart from its cohorts, specifically, its hooks, humor and an underhanded civic pride. Hailing from the hamlet of Zion, Local H -- singer/guitarist/songwriter Scott Lucas and drummer Joe Daniels -- love to alternately talk up and rip down their hometown. It's obvious the two have a weird affinity for the place; they took their name from one of the town's road signs. But they also have no qualms about dissing everything from Zion's cultural homogeneity ("I feel like I'm the only freak in this town") to its music fans, which largely ignored their homeboys until national tastes -- Local H's "Bound for the Floor" is a national hit now -- assured them it was okay to pay attention.

Where the music is concerned, Lucas has a child's attention span, taking in loads of stimuli and churning out simple melodies that are more contagious than a flu bug at a daycare center. But unlike most children, Local H adjusts well to change. When the band's bassist walked out a while back, Lucas and Daniels simply went on as a twosome, Lucas rigging his ax so he could play both the bass and the guitar parts (one instrument, two amplifiers). I've heard he pulls it off quite effectively live. Seeing that alone ought to be worth the price of admission.

-- Hobart Rowland

Local H performs Wednesday, February 12, at the Urban Art Bar, 112 Milam. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $1.07, 21 and up; $5, minors. Failure and Edna Swap open. 225-0500.

Fattburger -- Back before smooth jazz radio was a gleam in some programmer's eye, Fattburger was saturating Southern California clubs with a sound they called R&J, short for rhythm and jazz. Charter members Carl Evans Jr. (keyboards), Mark Hunter (bass), Tommy Aros (percussion) and Kevin Koch (drums) had already performed with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Cannonball Adderly, Herbie Mann, Clark Terry, Freddie Hubbard and Trini Lopez before coming together in San Diego more than a decade ago. They could have had no idea at the time that their success on the West Coast would parallel the increasing popularity of the jazz sub-genre soon to be defined by its "smooth" modifier. Seven releases later, Fattburger is now an essential ingredient in contemporary jazz and adult contemporary formats nationwide. While melodic funkiness remains the basic element of its formula, Fattburger's latest release, All Natural Ingredients, delves some into hip-hop and Latin jazz. The band describes it as more "hard-hitting" than its previous work, and it seems like a logical enough ingredient for success: Hit 'em hard on-stage, smooth 'em over everywhere else. At Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington Avenue, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Sunday, February 9. Tickets are $15 to $25. Chuck Loeb opens. 869-TICS. (Mark Towns)

Charlie King -- Whaddaya mean you've never heard of Charlie King? Why hell, old Charlie, he's ... well ... he's ... famous -- kind of. King came out of those early '70s folk circles that seemed famous yet never entirely reached infamous status as the decades slid away. Hardly anyone knows many of these people anymore. You could argue that folks such as Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger are more famous than Charlie King, but I say not by much. Both Guthrie and Seeger have nice things to say about King, and they even sing his songs sometimes. King's been doing his honest liberal storytelling strummer bit for more than 20 years. He's got 11 releases behind him, and he describes himself as a "hopemonger," which is a bad sign for anyone trying to make interesting modern music. But then again, he also remembers the old Catholic Worker motto, "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," which is a far better golden rule than the one we're presently ignoring. Egalitarian, hayriding, campfiring sing-alongs of the sort King offers sound at least a little cliched. But what's not these days? And when, really, is the last time you experienced firsthand the warm feeling that comes with helping a guy pay his union dues? At the Millbend Coffeehouse, 1370 North Millbend Drive, The Woodlands, at 3 (children's matinee) and 7 p.m. Sunday, February 9. Tickets are $3 to $10. (281) 350-3052. (Brad Tyer


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Hobart Rowland
Mark Towns
Brad Tyer