The Listener: 'As Good As Dead'

As Good As Dead, by Local H. Island Records. 1996.

You crass fat-ass
You stupid steroid fuck
I bet you even named your
Grand prize monster truck

After checking in and clearing security at MIA last Sunday, I settled into a turquoise rocking chair near my gate and decided to make good use of that long, usually unproductive wait before boarding. (I normally have a couple beers, but did not feel like it then.) I busted out my iPod, a small notepad, and a pen, and made notes while listening to Local H’s As Good As Dead.

I’ve wanted to review As Good As Dead for a while. I bought it a couple years ago during an episode of grunge/post-grunge nostalgia. I have always dug Local H’s most famous song, “Bound for the Floor,” and thought the rest of As Good As Dead would satisfy my need for heavy distortion and melodic angst. Initially, I was very disappointed; I was crushed by buyer’s remorse after my first listen. However, while painting for a neighbor or maybe Sweets recently, I gave As Good As Dead another shot and got a completely different experience while listening. It is, I thought, a pretty good album.

After a short intro song, the album opens with “High-Fiving MF.” It’s a good tune with a lot of distortion. I love the theme — it seems to bemoan the older and unwelcome characters who apparently latched onto the grunge scene, or at least attended Local H shows — and the angst. It is followed by “Bound for the Floor,” which will likely be an anthem for depressed, lonely, unsure teenage boys for all time. It is hard for me to listen to “Bound for the Floor” and not think of Rock 108, which still plays the song fairly often. For some reason, many think the song is titled “Copacetic” since the word is used in the chorus. Admittedly, I used to be one of them. (What does “copacetic” mean? According to my MacBook dictionary, the definition is, “in excellent order.”) The lyrics are depressing and defeatist, but the melody is heavy and full of anger and angst. It’s one of those songs that makes you want to embrace your nonconformist ways and yell, “Fuck that shit!”

Fittingly, and somewhat sadly, it is followed by “Lovey Dovey,” a song that angrily proclaims, “Don’t you hate it, when people are in love?… They’re so happy, so fucking happy, happy... It’s not fair!” The song speaks to disenchanted singles and is something I can relate to, sometimes. In my notes I wrote, “It is a song I can relate to, the mix of emotions felt when one sees two people who are happily infatuated.” Under the right circumstances, it can evoke annoyance, sickness, and jealousy at the exact same time.

“I Saw What You Did and Know Who You Are” is classic grunge — fast and fist pumping angst! There is a transition in the middle where it slows, but the song builds and hardens again for a great change of pace. “No Problem” is slow, acoustic, and likely about a deadbeat dad who only visits his kids a few times a year. It is probably the most depressing song on the whole album. It makes me think of those downtrodden towns along Interstate 80 in central Illinois. (I had always been under the impression Local H was from some small town in central Illinois, and thought the songs befit the post-industrial malaise of the area. Instead, the band was formed in Zion, which is on Lake Michigan near the Wisconsin border. I have never been to Zion, so perhaps it is much like the towns I pass on the way to Chicago.) The song transitions smoothly into “Nothing Special.” Heavy cords and distortion return and the song speaks to those who feel there is something wrong with them just because they are not “normal.” Or perhaps those who have a touch of melancholy (“I know I’m nothing special, and I know I’m nothing great. I know I’m nothing different, but I just don’t feel the same”).

Eddie Vedder” is a great, mopey tune. The album’s title is lifted from the lyrics and I am pretty sure the song is a commentary on the music industry. “If I was Eddie Vedder,” the lead singer asks, “would you like me any better?” On the bright side, the song is also about the resiliency of passionate artists who may not find, or seek, fame or fortune (“You go ahead, as good as dead”). It is a catchy song, too.

“Back in the Day” is upbeat and energizing, a good song to bang one’s head to. “Freeze Dried (F) Lies” has good rhythm but doesn’t evoke much. “Fritz’s Corner,” a commentary about the destructiveness of alcoholism, is heavy and likeable. It also seems much more like a radio-friendly song, something that would have been played alongside “Bound for the Floor.” “O.K.” is just “meh.” Closing the album is “Manifest Destiny, Part 2.” Part 1 and 2 bookend the rest of the songs and Part 2 is much harder and faster, making it much more appealing to me.

As Good As Dead no longer evokes buyer’s remorse from me. Instead, it is now something I know I will enjoy while repainting someone’s dining room — or while waiting for a flight at the airport.

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