Local musician Lucas Alvarez is the musical purist's worst nightmare. Over the course of two albums with the band Someband and six solo albums, Alvarez's flippant brain has become a whirling Quisenart of musical styles. On his latest release, Room Full of Earfuls (available at MP3.com), Lucas takes the classic ten-song approach, hurtling each track at you from hidden nooks and crannies all over the room. A fifties sock-hop where the squeaky-clean kids are replaced with punks sporting Mohawks, black makeup, and tattoos opens the album ("Renunciation"), followed quickly by rambling, humorous lyrics mixed with a near-metal guitar riff in "You're Not Fat" ("I think you look just fine in that dress.") "Fake It" begins as a stomping rocker but then slows to a more laid back feel after the first verse, which suits the nice vocal harmonies. Jittery organs lend a hint of The Zombies to "Romance Is Dead", an angry diatribe on the politics of romance. Brushed drums and female scat vocals make "Comfort Food" a wonderful jazzy ditty with lyrics sure to amuse those not sated with starchy gustatory delights. An ode to eating "for eating's sake", Alvarez sings "I'd give up eating if I thought you weren't coming back / But baby I trust that you will so I think that I'll have a snack." Leaving the best song for last, "Can't Afford to Call" is the sweet, somber, biographical story of "a dirt poor undergrad" whose university "wants more cash than I've ever had." Soft vocals and acoustic guitar (plus xylophone embellishments) characterize this simple collection of great lyrics that I'm helpless to quote: "I can't afford to call you / 'Cause I've always been cheap / I can't afford to call you / And ease you into sleep / Like I used to do when I wasn't quite so far away / And I lived close to you and the phone bill wasn't mine to pay." This album is full of such great lyrics that perch precariously between novelty and profundity.
Permeating these fine songs is a Chris Knox/punk Do-It-Yourself ethic. The songs are sparsely recorded and although they have a live, raw feel about them they are not aggressive. Recorded at Monastic Chambers, I can't imagine they took more than two takes on each song, such is the carefree enthusiasm. Alvarez plays nearly every instrument here (although his beloved viola is sadly absent from this release) and worse yet, he knows how to write catchy melodies so these songs stick in your mind long after the CD has stopped spinning. True to his punk youth, all the songs are short with a reckless hit-and-run mentality that leaves the listener stunned but smiling.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, March 2002.