It's an all too familiar story nowadays: band gets screwed by major record label and has a record that sits and sits until the band either breaks up or gets a lucky break somewhere else. Fortunately, Minneapolis' The Honeydogs got their lucky break and actually ended up with a record release. Granted, it was 2 ½ years after the album was recorded and on a different label, but at least it actually came out.
No thanks to Mercury/Universal/Polygram/Island/Def Jam, the label(s) that the 'dogs had to struggle with for many, many moons before getting released from their contract. Considering that kind of timeline, the name Here's Luck stands out as ironically humorous, particularly if the title was selected back in 1998.
The Honeydogs have often in the past been shoved neatly into the y'alternative or Americana category, but Here's Luck shows quite a few departures from the catchy folk-rock of a typical Wilco/Son Volt/Jayhawks clone. There's a slightly odd and discordant edge to many of the songs, whether it's due to interesting drum effects ("Stonewall"), vocal effects ("Sour Grapes," "Pins in Dolls"), guitar sounds ("Hearts And Heads") or strings ("Wilson Blvd."). Even the piano on "The Crown" sounds like something from a sullen Fiona Apple song.
Then there are the lyrics, exemplified in a song such as "Freak Show," about looking at an abominable snowman, a lobster boy, and Siamese twins at the fair. "Thank God my kids don't look like that/freak show at the fair," grimaces frontman Adam Levy.
These little quirks help give the album a touch of a melancholy and even unsettled feel, although there are some upbeat songs that do balance on the pop-rock high wire. "Pins In Dolls" brings to mind Timbuk 3's "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades," while the meat of "Losing Transmissions" gives off a Paul Westerberg vibe.
Here's Luck has quite a bit of depth to it, both musically and lyrically, that requires several listens to catch. It's an intriguing record that doesn't seem forced -- quite a feat considering the number of swerves off the straight alt-country roadway that it takes. While fans of The Honeydogs' radio-friendly rock songs might be a bit bewildered by these changes of direction at first, there should be enough on this record to keep the CD firmly lodged in their collection.
If not, there should be plenty of new fans willing to buy it from them.