The searchfor one’s identity is a lifelong process that every individual must go through.Who someone is today, is not the person they were yesterday nor who they may betomorrow. Despite those changes, there is a general idea of a defined sense ofself.
No matter what happens, it is thatsmall yet solid and grounding definition of self that continues to drive usforward in our search for identity and whatever may come with it.
It would bedifficult to find any artist who understands that better than the band Lucero.
Sinceforming in Memphis in the late 90’s, Lucero’s base musical hallmarks haveremained similar to the band’s initial sound established with their firstrecord
The Attic Tapes
. In the history of their expansive discography,Lucero has evolved and embraced everything from southern rock to Stax-inspiredMemphis soul, whilst simultaneously maintaining their distinctive sonicfoundations. Over 20 years later, dedicated fans of the group still flock tohear the band’s punchy driving rhythms, punk-rooted guitar licks, and lyricsthat evoke the whiskey drenched sentimentality of Americana singer-songwriters.As expected of any band built to survive, Lucero has welcomed change over thecourse of their career, but it has always been on their terms.
The band’stwelfth album,
Should’ve Learned by Now
, began its life as hardly morethan some rough demos and lingering guitar parts. These pieces that were leftbehind from the band’s previous albums,
Among the Ghosts
WhenYou Found Me
(2021) were deemed too uptempo and capering for the priorrecords’ darker themes.
“I had aparticular sound I was looking for on each record and there was no room for anygoofy rock & roll or cute witticisms or even simply upbeat songs,” saidprimary lyricist and frontman, Ben Nichols. “But now finally, it was time torevisit all of that stuff and get it out in the world. That’s how we got to theappropriately-for-us-titled album
Should’ve Learned by Now.
The album isbasically about how we know we are fuckups and I guess we are ok with that.”
The band,comprised of all its original members (which in addition to Ben Nichols,includes Brian Venable on guitar, Roy Berry on drums, John C. Stubblefield onbass, and Rick Steff on keys) teamed up for a third time with producer andGrammy Award-winning engineer and mixer, Matt Ross-Spang. Lucero began therecording process in Sam Phillips Recording Service before transitioning andfinishing the record in Ross-
’s newlyopened Southern Grooves Productions in Memphis, TN. Ross-
appears to have settled in with the band’s more trademark soundwhilst very much making his touch known to listeners.
“He knows how to take the sounds we’re makingon our own and just kind of polish them up in the right way. Or dirty it up inthe right way. Whatever it takes, he just kind of does it,” says Nichols.
The firsttrack from the album “One Last F.U.” is a punchy and somewhat combative songwhich was one of the original remnants of
Among the Ghosts.
Despite itstitle, “One Last F.U.” is less about standoffishness and more a self-reflectionon the kind of people we are capable of being in difficult situations.According to Nichols “The rest of the song was simply about wanting to be leftalone while I drank at the bar. That could be taken in a kind ofgrumpy/antagonistic way, but I feel ok singing the song because I’ve been bothcharacters in the song at different times. Sometimes I’m the one wanting to beleft alone and sometimes I’m the drunk one blabbing all night to someone thatjust wants to be left alone.” Right off the bat, Nichols’
s are awash in rock and roll slap-back reverb. The effect pushesNichols’ naturally upfront vocals
they fillthe space in a manner more akin to a live performance. It’s one of a few newproduction effects that extend throughout the record and add a new level of presenceand attitude to the band’s sound.
The secondtrack, “Macon if We Make It”, was inspired by the band having to traversethrough Georgia during a hurricane. When asked where the next stop on the tourwas, the band responded with, “
n, if wemake it.” Continuing to be reminiscent of older works, “Macon if We Make It” hasechoes of the band’s 2009 album
.The song is really driven by guitarist Brian Venable’s formidable
. The lyrics seem at first to bemostly preoccupied with a literal storm situation at hand but turn out to bemore about a troubled relationship back home. The proverbial dam breaks whenthe narrator sings “I don’t know if we were in love. I just know it wasn’tenough. Got caught in the storm and the water it’s rising…” The song gives wayto a powerful drum lead up by Roy Berry and the listener is carried out, like araft,
on a ripping guitar solo.
The pushesand pulls, builds and breakdowns are all over the album’s subsequent tracks,but it isn’t all hard-edged rock and roll all the time. “She Leads Me”, isinspired somewhat by the classic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, and delves intoa softer and more nostalgic sound. With backing vocals supplied by Jesse Davisand Cory Branan, it’s a song that lyrically rests on the concept that wesometimes need to recognize and acknowledge our past for a gentle enoughreassurance to move forward.
The rest ofthe album dives right back into its more rock and roll songs with “At the Show”and “Nothing’s Alright”, both of which examine the highs and lows ofremembering old loves, reminiscing on the old days, and contentedintrospection. Aspects which finally come to a head in the album’s title track “Should’veLearned by Now”, a rough and edgy song that tackles the fact that all thelessons, though clearly recognized, have yet to sink in. Quite poetically, thesong is set to a tune that may be the greatest call back to Lucero’s punkupbringing.
From itsoriginal Ben Nichols-designed cover art to its credits, the album is areflection of a band that knows itself.
Should’ve Learned by Now
bridgesthe gap musically between “old Lucero” and “new Lucero” in a manner whichaffixes the band’s position as the perfect intersection of punk initiative withhard-earned artistry. It’s an album that recognizes the past in its sound andcontent, but leaves the door wide open to the future and for the lessons stillin store.
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