The Zutons : Oxford Zodiac

...leaving behind their peers, rocketing into a solar system of their own...

Even if you’ve spent years in la-la land, la’, you can’t have failed to notice that being in a Liverpudlian band is a not a privilege, it’s a predicament.

First there’s a huge bunch of glib naysayers writing you off as Coral copyists and indulging in bouts of Coral bingo where the appearance of Mariachi riffs and sea shanties means you can shout “scouse”.

In fairness, though, around the time of their debut single the criticism could’ve been aimed at The Zutons. However since they first orbited planet pop they’ve chosen to blast off into a new direction. The early tracks ‘Creepin’ And A Crawlin’’ and ‘Rumblin’ Ramblin’’ have fallen behind as little more than burnt out booster rockets (tonight they’re the lowpoints and they don’t even appear on the forthcoming album). Judging by the downbeat tautness of ‘Dirty Dancehall’ and the razor riff of ‘Zuton Fever’, they’ve achieved Coral escape velocity already. And they’re moving on faster than you can say [I]”Blur, is there life on Mars? Or indeed atop Damon’s thinning scalp?”[/I]

In short, the Zutons have done what musicologists term ‘get their shit together’. For where once you couldn’t have fit a soggy roach between their music and that of their Scouse peers, there’s a new bunch of magpie influences encompassing soul and southern-fried voodoo rock fuel. Meanwhile Abi Harding’s sax augments their new drive as they belligerently prove their differences and, more importantly, how great they could be.

Take current single ‘Pressure Point’. Where previously it would be a routine psychedelic wafer generously washed down with Scouse charm, singer David McCabe’s paranoiac “pressure/pressure/pressure” refrain wonderfully assaults the temples as much as the ears. More importantly its insistent bass and drums interplay makes it irresistible to the feet.

In contrast the downbeat ‘Havana Gang Brawl’ is a strangely moving if confusing hymn of shootings and Merserybeatings between [I]”blues”[/I] and [I]”reds”[/I]. It ranks alongside ‘You Will You Won’t’ – with its glorious ensemble belting out of the title refrain – as best song.

Sure some things remain unaltered; their mortal fear of the letter ‘g’ ( ‘Longtime Comin’’ etc.) is still up there with Jason Von Bondie’s dread of party invites from Jack White, but crucially they’ve recast themselves as contenders. The Zutons are leaving behind their peers, rocketing into a solar system of their own.

Anthony Thornton