Review Summary: A manic, bouncy album of jangly guitar twangs, squealing sax and fun, rocking choruses, underpinned by paranoid lyrics and a well-hidden melancholiaWho Killed…The Zutons
was an impressive debut by the crazy scousers, who get their kicks by alternating between happy-go-lucky 60s-influenced pop-rock and bluesy melancholia. The ever-present quality of quite ridiculously catchy choruses are the foundation of the band, however, and helped set them apart from labelmates and fellow scousers The Coral. Tired Of Hanging Around
was the next step and saw them sacrificing just a little of the quirkiness of the debut in favour of a generous extra-helping of bounciness, polish and accessibility.
If you’ve never heard them before, the first thing you’ll notice about this album is the streak of black humour running through it all. In ‘It’s The Little Things We Do’
, a song entirely about the mother of all hangovers (!), we get these for lyrics:
"So I get up and go down the stairs and try to make a sandwich,
But the ham and cheese, margarine they speak an evil language,
It says "Don't eat me I don’t deserve to be there in your stomach"
And I break on down and cry why do good times turn to bummers"
…and all to a chaotic, stompy backing and pacy, dirty guitars. Treating such subjects with the same pomp and exuberance is also noticeable on lead single ’Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love?’
, a jazzy, rhythmic track with a gargantuan, bombastic rock chorus. The obsessions of a crazed control-freak unable to accept reality are given an extra twist, as Dave McCabe goes all weird on us again:
"I’ll chain you up, I make you mine, I keep you locked downstairs,
With all the bugs and all the gnats, I feed you rodent hair"
There’s definitely a slight sense of madness running through the album, emphasised by the great saxophone work and anger disguised as energy. Central to all the charming songs about stalkers, drunks and weirdos is an almost tangible feeling of uneasiness and paranoia noticeable especially on tracks like ’You’ve Got A Friend In Me’
, where Dave McCabe and Abi Harding face off in a tale of an obsessive stalker. But The Zutons can
go all sensitive and sentimental, whether in a reflective, wistful look at their hometown (’I Know I’ll Never Leave’
) or in the more comfortable surroundings of retro, 60s-style pop (’Valerie’
), the latter being an open letter from a guy to an ex-girlfriend, romantically/pathetically idling his time away wondering what’s she’s up to, and how his life would fall into place if she came back. On the former, they even go so far as to slice the song in two, with a superbly moody, bluesy guitar line chiming over the verses describing the pitfalls of life in his hometown, before the tempo changes abruptly and angry guitar crunches vent his frustration on the chorus.
Ultimately, however, it’s the combination of all these elements that makes this such a competent album, and allow them to produce pop gems like ’Oh Stacey (Look What You’ve Done)’
and ’Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love?’
. Their Smiths-esque trait of pairing maudlin lyrics to upbeat music, and the vaguely apprehensive feeling mixed with catchy choruses and rollicking rhythms all gel together effortlessly and ensure you’ll have these songs in your head for a long time. But the ramshackle, thrown-together-in-a-day charm of the debut is conspicuous by its absence, and with it, perhaps, a little of The Zutons’ character. Ironically, the eccentricity gets a little samey on some parts of the album, meaning that it’s not one you’ll necessarily listen to all the way through every time
; instead, you might find yourself simply skipping your way to the singles.
Influences are everywhere; 60s rock, jazz, funk, soul - they even go all alt-country on the track ’Someone Watching Over Me’
(unfortunately rendering it the weakest track on the album in the process). They never stray too far from a good tune or a pithy lyric, however, which is why the comparisons to The Coral don’t seem justified. The Zutons definitely hold the Merseybeat sound together a lot more confidently. Infectious, unpretentious and bittersweet, Tired Of Hanging Around
is an accomplished piece of manic indie-pop-rock with few major flaws and will please anyone new to The Zutons. Only fans of the debut may feel that something is missing.