Album Review: Lucero - "Among The Ghosts"

Americana band's latest gets dissected by our own Dan MacIntosh.

Lucero lead vocalist Ben Nichols has a gravelly voice, which sounds even more haggard on Among The Ghosts. These ten songs are haunted. Haunted by regrets, fears and nightmares of various shapes and sizes. The band has said some of these songs were influenced by 80s rock, and these influences come through on the album’s best song, “Bottom of The Sea.” Lyrically, it’s up to the high standards of vintage Smiths music, with lines like: “A heart left alone/Sinks likes a stone/And it rests on the floor of the sea in a storm.” Sonically, though, “Bottom of The Sea” bears an uncanny resemblance to the tones set by The Cure on the album Disintegration. The next song, “Everything Has Changed,” travels in more familiar Lucero territory. It rolls to a thumping bass groove, colored by organ and piano. Its lyric follows a man heading in the wrong direction, as Nichols sings, “Somewhere down in hell they call my name.”

Nichols often writes like a novelist, ever attempting to get inside the heads of his various characters. One called “To My Dearest Wife” was inspired by Civil War letters and would have fit nicely into Ken Burns’ famous Civil War documentary. The album closes with “For the Lonely Ones,” which rollicks like Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” complete with a Memphis-y horn part. “Back to The Night” uses Nichols' crusty voice perfectly during a spoken word section. It’s extra spooky, with its ghost-like quality.

There’s a density to Among The Ghosts that leaves it a little unapproachable – at first. The melodies, although strong, are many times in a minor key. The lyrics can also be a little vague, leaving much up to the imagination. When Lucero hits the mark, though, which it decidedly does with “Bottom of The Sea,” it is one powerful musical outlet. With its sonic harshness, Lucero accurately reflects our harsh modern world.