The Zutons

The Zutons


You Can Do Anything

Come in, Zutons, your hit-making days are over. According to our schedule, you’re due to be put into pop’s knacker yard and boiled down to make the plastic casings for the next Scooter Best Of boxset. Now, now, stop crying. On 2004’s ‘Who Killed The Zutons’ your Zombies-lite scary-pop seemed likeably at odds with prevailing trends and even your dash for the mainstream on 2006’s ‘Tired Of Hanging Around’ had its ‘Valerie’s: moments of craft that dazzled beyond your descent into pub-rock formlessness. Now though? Well, it’s fair to say Amy Winehouse won’t be lending her larynx to ‘You Can Do Anything’ any time soon. Scrabbling for something that bobs above the ‘deeply annoying’ threshold, it’s hard to believe this band were once nominated for a Mercury.

After decamping to LA to make their new album with producer George Drakoulias, The Zutons seemingly fell prey to the city’s vampiric charms. Either that or departing guitarist Boyan Chowdhury was always the brains of the operation, though the handful of solo tracks he’s since premiered suggest otherwise. The warning flare’s been up for a while in ‘Always Right Behind You’, essentially Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Don’t Stop’ if it were thinking about nothing in particular. That’s roughly the style they maintain: lurching towards bell-curve-pleasing MOR frigidity in which retro has become repetition and songwriting has become aural plastering. Where once Abi Harding’s sax added sleazy drama, now it’s just laid down to hide the holes. However much he hollers, Dave McCabe can’t escape sounding bored, and his often-schoolboy lyrics have begun to actively jar. “If the world was oblong-shaped, then you would make it square” he trundles geometrically, on ‘You Could Make The Four Walls Cry’. By ‘Family Of Leeches’, he’s forgotten to include any elements of character in his characterisations: “The wife of the family/She’s so good/She’s been a worker her whole life”. Really? Tell us more!

Annoyingly, as they’re leaving, they pull something back with ‘Freak’, the wry tale of a granny-dating gigolo who works via the internet. It’s an interesting attempt to update their ghoul motif, grafted to a slippery sliver of guitar. It can’t, however, save them. Still, it’ll be a long, long time before they exhaust the ‘Valerie’ millions…won’t it?

Gavin Haynes

The Zutons – ‘You Can Do Anything’ available now from the NME Store.