Lucero: All A Man Should Do

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Lucero
All A Man Should Do
(ATO)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The title of the new Lucero album is taken from Big Star’s “I’m In Love With A Girl,” a left-field cover that the band has included on the disc. The choice of songs is telling; the band has softened some of their rougher, punker edges through the years, so now they have no trouble delivering a sweetheart ballad from the legendary power-poppers (Big Star’s Jody Stephens even guests on backing vocals.)

The ironic thing about that choice in covers is that Ben Nichols, Lucero’s growly-voiced frontman, spends much of the album bemoaning the wrong turns various relationships have taken. On “They Called Her Killer,” it’s because his narrator chose to love a maneater; on “I Woke Up In New Orleans,” the protagonist’s drunken, wastrel ways are to blame. And on the brooding opener “Baby Don’t You Want Me,” he can’t even put a finger on where it all went wrong.

There is plenty of musical variety on hand to keep the album from falling into any repetitive ruts, though. Horns are utilized to great effect, whether beefing up the pummeling “Can’t You Hear Them Howl,” which recalls Sticky Fingers-era Stones, or embellishing the heartbreak of “I Woke Up In New Orleans.” These songs represent the band at its most soulful, which only makes sense since they, once again, recorded in Memphis.

Nichols writes some effective changes of pace as well, such as “Went Looking For Warren’s Zevon’s Los Angeles.” Even though he only gets as far as Zevon’s infamous Gower Avenue, he at least comes away from the experience with a song. Closing track “My Girl & Me in ’93” is a beauty, a meditation on how youth is wasted on the young and obsessed upon by the middle-aged and lonely. Lucero is one of those bands that’s so consistent they’re underrated. All A Man Should Do keeps their solid streak going while tweaking the formula just enough to both earn new converts and surprise the faithful.