Nick Luca's first two records were heavily influenced by the fertile Wavelab Studio scene in Tucson, where he has worked as sound engineer with such desert-noirists as Calexico, Giant Sand, and Friends of Dean Martinez. But Luca sheds that skin with Sick of Love, emerging with a diverse record of '80s power pop, hook-happy country rock, and indie laments -- music that sounds vintage, but never nostalgic.
The opening title song is a blast of Graham Parker-meets-Rockpile pop, featuring jagged guitars, frenetic rhythms, and Luca's once-thin voice spitting out lines of romantic frustration. "Find Me There" and "Melody" are cut from similar pop molds, while "Rosalie" and "Dominos Fall" recall the punk twang of Too Far to Care-era Old 97s, both cuts powered by runaway locomotive beats, Luca's harmonica, and Jon Rauhouse's pedal steel. Elsewhere you can hear strains of Tom Verlaine ("Losin' Ground"), John Doe ("Love Me Too"), and even Teenage Fanclub ("This Tiny Room"). Members of Calexico and Giant Sand's Howe Gelb lend support, but this time they're guests, not sources of inspiration. Love may be giving Luca the business, but it's also helped him record a gem of a rock disc, one of this year's true surprises.