Outside of perhaps the Hold Steady -- which shares a proclivity for Bruce Springsteen -- nobody plays straight-up rock these days as convincingly as Lucero. Led by Ben Nichols's gravelly croak, Lucero has finally produced the definitive rock record it's been edging closer to since leaving behind the alt-country leanings of 2002's Tennessee. Embracing themes as worn as Nichols's voice, the act borrows liberally from the Boss on Rebels, with understated piano lines and organ flourishes. At times, however, the Memphis quartet gets carried away and ends up sounding more like Bon Jovi channeling Springsteen on tunes like "I Can Get Us Out of Here," which features pick scrapes and a metallic solo along with a melody line that vaguely recalls Mtley Crüe's "On With the Show," of all tunes. The boys fill songs like "San Francisco" with just enough sunburned Southern-rock licks to remind us that they're from Dixie, not Jersey. Overall, Rebels isn't as instantly likable as past releases, but take that for what it's worth. After all, we're talking about Lucero here, a band whose outtakes are better than the entire output of most bands.
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