"Useless Lucy"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Maybe the conspiracy theorists were right. Maybe John Wilkes Booth wasn't killed by Union troops after his assassination attempt. Maybe he got away, got a hold of a youth serum and reinvented himself as a rock n roll star...

Nah, probably not. But now we have a band that bears his name. This version of John Wilkes Booth is definitely a close relative of Clutch and similar hard-rocking bands. Like Clutch, they have an odd sense of humor that manifests itself in strange lyrics and song titles. But they're not quite at the same level as Clutch either musically or lyrically yet.

"Useless Lucy" opens with a foreboding, slow-builing tune "From The North". It's obvious from the get-go that this is a thoroughly professional recording and doesn't have the feeling of an unsigned demo at all. It's also obvious that Kerry Merkle has one hell of a strong rock n roll voice. This guy's pipes are perfect for the ballsy tunes here. "From The North" is a fine but atypical opener. Next track "The Masturbation Song" has a title that suggests silliness but actually comes across dead serious and even dread-inducing. Kind of a grinding metallic song. After this, the band indulges in a couple of very 90's grunge sounding numbers, "Sixty One" and "13 Years" that have more of a hazy, laidback groove. Merkle's singing adds some shine to these songs but I don't feel this where JWB is at its best.

The rest of "Useless Lucy" is very quirky and idiosyncratic. "Soak The Perimeter" is a fun Clutch-like rocker, "Ladders and Vacuums" features that nervous, staccato sound, "Intro 2""(Lick My Spacesuit) is just weird noises and feedback leading into the final number "Family Crest", which brings Clutch to mind but kind of peters out at the end. I was expecting more of a mighty climax.

Definitely a lot of potential for a band named after a presidential assassin, but it hasn't been totally realized yet. If you're a fan of off the wall hard rock, though, this is recommended.