Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it has been a while. You guys all know how “real-life” sometimes gets in the way for the InsidePulse Staff, especially when it’s me.
So, this review, although long overdue, is a good one. I promise you that this album will not disappoint.
A few months back, I happened across a little-known British band called the Zutons. Now, let me correct myself before we go any further: they were just coming out on this side of the Atlantic, as the rock fans in the U.K. have been eating up their soul-funk-voodoo goodness for the past 12 months.
The Zutons are five ambitious British 20-somethings (4 men, 1 woman) who evidently have a thing for Dr. John. I felt very original thinking that until I saw on their biography page that they listened to Dr. John a great deal. Other influences listed include: Sly and the Family Stone, Talking Heads, and Devo. If you listen to enough “Brit-rock,” you may also notice some striking similarities to the Coral, another British act. There’s good reason for that: they’re all good buddies. So, should you enjoy the Coral, this band is definitely for you.
The first thing I can say about the Zutons is that it’s refreshing when a band from England does NOT try to sound like Radiohead, U2, or Coldplay.
My faith in Britain as a whole has been renewed. I have these amazing people to thank for that:
Dave McCabe – Lead Singer, Guitarist
Boyan Chowdhury – Lead Guitarist, Background Vocals
Abi Harding – Saxophone, Background Vocals
Russ Pritchard – Bass Guitar, Background Vocals
Sean Payne – Drums and Percussion, Background Vocals
I happened upon their website, and there was one ditty that made me stop what I was doing and take notice. If I had any say, “Pressure Point” would be playing in every bar and liquor-serving establishment in the continental United States.
I just don’t think Alaska and Puerto Rico are ready. Hawaii might be.
So, urged on by the goodness that was that tiny soundbite, I tracked their album down. Hell, I sold a few old XBOX games to pay for that and some other new CDs, but it was worth it.
The Zutons’ Who Killed the Zutons? would have made my best of 2004 list, had I found the album in time. Since I didn’t, a whole world has yet to be exposed to this amazing band.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a very eclectic sound. There are the usual guitars, drums, and bass on the album, but there is a small, teeny-tiny bit of saxophone to tide over anyone who might have a fixation on horns. Plus, the use of the saxophone here does the complete opposite of what a sax does in contemporary music. No, it’s not used in a Kenny G sort of way, nor does it remind me of that god-awful noise that the horn players use in ANY ska band.
(In case you wondered, I hate most swing music too. Horns drive me nuts; they remind of driving lessons with my father, and his mustachioed face leaning over me from the passenger seat, honking the horn to be annoying. Needless to say, it still takes a great deal for me to drive in the car with a passenger due to that.)
Who Killed the Zutons, is a 13-track stomp through 60s and 70s era rock. There are moments of straightforward rock, but it also has been structured in a way that allows for the possibility of a rock critic’s wettest of dreams: continuous play. I swear, you truly can play this album from end to end, and never quite the need to stop it.
“Zuton Fever,” the opening number, reminds me of one of my favorite phrases: bluesy jaunt. The song builds to a gentle lull, at which point, your ass is kicked by a very retro, very 60/70s style solo. Think Jimi Hendrix playing with the Doors, and that’s the feeling I get. Then, “Pressure Point” pops up, and just serves as a reminder that no matter how far removed we may be from the Doo-Wop era, synchronized background vocals will always rule. Track three, “You Will You Won’t,” reminds me of a Grand Funk Railroad track. Maybe it’s the chanting of the chorus, but it may just be that they touched upon a truly timeless sound.
From there, the album twists and bends, filling your headphones/car/house with all sorts of sonic goodies. There is not a great deal of experimentation here, these folks merely know what they want to sound like, and do a fantastic job of sticking to it. They bounce a bit from genre to genre, but the feel of each track is coherent. Worst case scenario, you will always be able to tell when something is a Zuton’s track.
By the time “Confusion” and “Havana Gang Brawl” saunter past, you are ready for a break from the goodness. One might even think about turning the stereo/iPod off, but “Long Time Coming” sneaks up and kicks you in the gut, reminding you that, yes, “it’s all about the music.” “Nightmare Part II” sounds like one of my favorite bands from college (Rustic Overtones) and just how great they could have been if they had cut back on the horns a bit. Gosh, that was pretentious of me.
Heck, I am in such a great mood, I will quote the opening track, “…when it’s running through my bones/Ya know I feel just like I’m ten years old/Ya know I’m looking young and good again/Got the Zuton Fever in my head. Needless to say, I have the Zuton Fever!
The album continues with “Not A Lot To Do” and a song that every guy should listen to, “Remember Me.” No, its not a cover of a Sarah McLachlan tune, its an original joint, from the perspective of a dude whose best friend is in a relationship that prevents him from spending adequate amounts of time with the gang. It’s not as bitter as that sounds, but it does remind us to keep our priorities balanced properly without coming off arrogant.
“Dirty Dancehall” allows the sax to work its sensual magic…er, no it doesn’t. It’s another song in which the horn doesn’t overshadow all the other instruments, it merely shares the stage. Thank God.
“Moons and Horror Shows” is the closest this album gets to a “filler” song. Granted, its a cool song, but when I pictured this band’s live show in my head, I don’t see this one making the set-list.
Last but certainly not least, “Don’t Ever Think Too Much” wraps it up, leaving you satisfied and giving you one last morsel to snack on before you repeat the whole damn album again.
Hurrah, I say. It’s a great day for ALL mankind, when a person can purchase an amazing album, and not feel as though they were ripped off by the establishment that runs the retail music market. It’s a common misconception among modern musicians that we consumers should fork over $15+ for 3 “good”, 4 “eh”, and several “filler” songs.
This album has 12 “great” songs, and 1 “filler” song, which is still pretty damn cool once it starts rocking.
Songs Worth Repeating:
Havana Gang Brawl
Don’t Ever Think (Too Much)