Album Review: Lucero – Should’ve Learned By Now

They gave us more cowbell.

Over their many years as one of the best unsung bands working their way across America again and again, Lucero have gone through a number of evolutions, from melancholy Americana to rowdy cow-punk to Memphis soul to moody Southern Gothic style music. On their latest release Should’ve Learned By Now, the band has stripped things down to the basics of good ol’ bar band rock n’ roll, keeping a bit of everything their fans love about them, while still finding little spaces to venture off their normal beaten path.

And yes, that path has some loud, clanking cowbell on it, especially on opener “One Last F.U.”, a purely fun kiss-off track made to be an audience pleaser, with whiskey shots in the air and the metallic guitar licks ring out. Things get grungy on the title track, with Ben Nichols‘ at his raspiest as he tears into himself (“Half of what runs through my head is bullshit I sell to myself. And the other half ain’t well thought out. I should have really learned by now”). The only track that rocks harder than this one on the album is the darker “Buy a Little Time”, which is the closest Lucero have ever come to writing a Mötley Crüe track. For the most part, things remain fairly upbeat on this release.

“Macon if We Make It” has all the trappings of a feel-good, classic rock track. With singer Ben Nichols singing about being stuck in a bar in a storm (“I couldn’t make it back to you even if I wanted to. The hurricane makes landfall and they serve another round. It’s Macon if we make it, Savannah if we drown”), he’s taking the time to reevaluate his relationship and throw back some drinks while he’s at it. The song rolls along with a Jackson Browne “Running on Empty” energy that would be a blast being blasted out of a convertible while hitting the highway.

As with every good Lucero album, the band balances the fun tracks with the mellow, though not always melancholy, songs they do so well. “She Leads Me” is a pretty, country-lite track with lovely piano fluorishes. The band utilizes piano more than ever before here, with “Raining for Weeks” being almost purely piano-based. The folky tracks sounds unlike anything the group has done before, and if not for the fuzzy background bass embedding a rock foundation, the track could fit in on an Elton John album.

The band’s storytelling lyrics have always been part of the romanticism that makes their fans so passionate about them, which leads me to think “At the Show”, with its nostalgic look back about looking forward to seeing a girl at a visiting band’s show, will have a number of folks misty-eyed. The true knock-out though is “Nothing Alright”. A ripping rocker on the verses, the track switches gears on the chorus into full-blown lovelorn mode (“But I don’t think about her anymore. The way she looks when she walked through the door. We all fell hopelessly in love. Now I don’t think about her much”). Making the track so touching is the song’s narrator lying to the audience and himself, trying to convince us he no longer things about this woman who clearly still has a hold on his heartstrings.

While generally strong throughout, the album does end a little softly. “Drunken Moon” treads more familiar territory for the band, and is the kind of sorrowful ballad that wants you to put your arms around your neighbors and sing along, but doesn’t really plumb any new emotional depths or stand out among stronger songs like “Nothing’s Alright”. Then their’s the acoustic country ditty “Time to Go Home”, which having followed the band for so many years, feels like the simple kind of song that would have fit in fine on one of their first albums, but feels outdated for where the band is now. Still, even that track has some nice touches like the soulful organ and the twangy guitar line.

Should’ve Learned By Now is another solid addition to Lucero‘s catalog, with at least a couple tracks that could arguably be included as some of the band’s best. Listen to the full thing when it comes out this Friday, February 24th, and stream the pre-released songs now right here.


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