Tuesday, 17 June 2008

ALBUM: The Zutons - You Can Do Anything (Deltasonic)

Although ‘Valerie’ might have suggested The Zutons were nice Northern optimists, first single from ‘Tired of Hanging Around,’ ‘Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love?’ showcased a snarling side beneath the jaunty pop hooks. Still, ‘You Can Do Anything’ in general takes a heavier sounding approach, on some tracks making the last album seem like Tara Reid (drunk, swearing and with the occasional stint in jail) compared to its Mike Tyson (dangerously insane with a punch that can powder bone). Tracks like ‘Family of Leeches’ and ‘Freak,’ stories about benefit fraud and rent boys, are the best examples of The Zutons’ lyrically and musically grittier edge but at the same time the album’s denser arrangements are often so aggravatingly studio polished that it steals some of the effect. Strangely enough, they seem most in their element on their slower tracks where they’re not trying to seem pissed off, like closer ‘Little Red Door,’ which is bordering on precious.

Still, the retro-rock that rightly earned The Zutons so many fans is still omnipresent, this time round with a strong 70s feel like on single ‘Always Right Behind You’ which almost sounds like that Christmas song by Slade and the Fleetwood Mac like ‘What’s Your Problem?’ Again, the simple chord progressions on a lot of tracks give some unintentional bounce that makes it hard to take the nasty picture of Britain they’re trying to paint seriously or the angry lyrics like ‘You’re a virus, you only ever make mistakes’ make the album seriously not fun. On the plus side, despite losing their guitarist ‘You Can Do Anything’ has some awesome guitar work, especially the wild solos on ‘Harder and Harder’ and ‘Give Me A Reason,’ making me suspect their previous guitarist was the limiting factor.

Though it pains me to retread another criticism of The Zutons, Abi Harding seems to be doing even less on this album besides the usual three-note sax riff, backing vocals and her primary function, selling their gig tickets and getting photo shoots. But fuck credibility, as they say themselves ‘she has nice hair and legs.’

Overall it’s a decent album but it lacks the charming quirkiness that made their first album so instantly memorable instead opting for both angry flailing songs and slow tempo ballads. No amount of axe-bashing can hide the production veneer that characterises the ‘trying-to-crack-the-States’ album and it’s hard not to miss what The Zutons used to be.

Ollie Khakwani