Lucero have hit the nail right on the head with That Much Further West (their third full length). This is 2003's best rock n roll record. No fucking contest. Stylistically you could call them a hybrid between Springsteen and The Replacements, but this description doesn't do them justice. You could call them Southern Rock, but so many more influences shine through.
Lucero keep their music fresh enough to avoid pidgeonholes, but there's still an overwhelming sense of farmiliarity to songs like "Mine Tonight" and "Coming Home". Lyrically it doesn't stray too far from the tried-and-true country music tradition of broken hearts, but it manages to keep it's aforementioned freshness with lines like "I ain't that much worse than the rest/I'm just that much further west".
Let's take a look at the many highlights of this record. The opener and title track kicks offf with singer/guitarist Ben's gravelly, mumbly crooning before swelling and blooming into a rocking piece with twinkly guitar working, irresistable hooks and an awesome piano part. This flows perfectly into the second track "Mine Tonight", which picks up the pace slightly and adds more of a country twang. The breakdown towards the end of the song is perfectly executed. The fourth cut "Across The River" is my personal favorite. It's a more laid back song that begins with subtle drums, a humming organ and some of the more soulful vocals I've ever heard. It goes into a beautiful symphony of [insert bad metaphor].
When we flip the record over we notice two distinct sides of Lucero emerge where there was a perfect blend of the two; the rock side [with faster tempos and more distortion] and the folk/country side. However, this more obvious stylistic seperation doesn't make it any worse. A heavy guitar lick opens the rocking "Hate And Jealousy" before it cools down with interesting drum parts and then explodes again with a blazing guitar solo. We then ramble into the seventh track "Joining The Army". A short acoustic cut with a fiddle, here Ben's lyrics are even more confessing and emotional than previously on the album. They're pretty much the main focus on this song, so it's a good hting that they're so strong. The ninth song "Tears Don't Matter Much" shows off Lucero's punkier side with a chorus that makes you sing along and beautiful melody on the breakdowns. The last song on the album "When You Decided To Leave" is a somber number with mostly one guitar and vocals. The electronic drums in the background are nicely done. Ben's vocals reach their emotional peak on this dittie before it flows into static and then goes back into an instrumental reprise of That Much Further West. The perfect sad end to a perfect sad album.
For those of you with open ears and minds, this is a great listen. All those nu-emo and "pop punk" bands will really have something to cry about once they hear this record and realize that four guys from Tennessee elicit more emotion then their crappy bands ever will.