Thursday, March 15, 2012

Album Review: Women & Work

Title:  Women & Work (Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, AllMusic)

Lucero’s latest album Women & Work has caused quite a stir with fans online (just take a look at the melee in the comment section of’s review).  The overall reaction that I’ve found to this record falls into two categories – love it or disappointed by it.  Many of the disappointed opinions seem to revolve around an idea expressed in Alternative Press’ review of the record –

Women & Work falls short by not taking any risks. The songs of whiskey drinking, pretty girls and heartbreak are certainly Lucero’s bread and butter, but stacked up against their back catalog, Women & Work plays it just a little too safe.

Those who love the record tend to point out that the band has grown and evolved over the years and thus aren’t going to put out the same record again and again.  I think that both points are valid, but let me preface that a bit.  I am new to Lucero.  I just started listening to the band within the last year, have since procured just about everything that I can get my hands on by the band, and have thoroughly enjoyed all of it.  So for me, this is my first new Lucero album.  I’m not going into this record with any real expectations, built up biases, or prejudices.  I’m excited to be listening to the latest record by a band that I am falling in love with more and more every day.  Does that give me a clearer lens through which to comment on Women & Work?  Probably not, it just gives me a different perspective.  And my first impression of the record is that it is packed with excellent songs but that it is a bit subdued compared to their previous work.  I see this as the result of a band that is becoming comfortable in their sound and niche.  Yes the intensity on W&W isn’t as high as on previous releases, but the earnestness and honesty certainly is.  This record doesn’t not in any way sound or feel forced or faked. 

Let me compare this to another band that’s been around about as long as Lucero and their last release.  Last year the Dropkick Murphys’ released their seventh studio album Going Out in Style.  In my review of that record I stated that the band had essentially found their shtick and were riding it for all its worth (in other words they wrote an album with a bunch of songs that sounded like “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”); the more that I hear that record, the less I like it and the more forced it sounds.  Yes the record is high energy but it really just sounds and feels like the band was trying to sound intense instead of actually being intense.  In other words it’s a strained and almost trite record.  That is not the case with Women & Work.  For all of the complaints that can be thrown at Lucero for this new album, I don’t think that cashing-in or half-assing it are ones that could actually stick (I wish the same could have been said for Going Out in Style). 

So what exactly does the record sound like?  Women & Work sounds like Memphis, TN.  Lucero have perfectly mixed elements or rock, country, and soul creating a sound that is instantly familiar (harkening back to records of years gone by) while still sounding uniquely Lucero.  This band has such a distinctive sound that it is no wonder that they have cultivated such a rapid fan base.  Yes compared to previous releases W&W is a very subdued record, but the emotional intensity still rings true.  The difference is that this is a record written by folks that are older then they were when they started; they are coming from a different place now and thus the music has evolved.  This is a great record to kick back and relax to; one that you enjoy slowly and over time.  Having listened to the record repeated for the past two day, I honestly can’t find any one song that I think stands out because they all are good. 

If you are a fan of Lucero then you’ve probably already gotten a copy of this record, but if you haven’t yet then I highly suggest doing so.  If you have never heard Lucero before, Women & Work is as good a place as any to start (though I’m sure many long-time fans would disagree with me there).  If you are a fan of southern soul and rock ‘n’ roll then this album is something that you definitely need to check out.   

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