4 out of 5
Produced by: George Drakoulias
Label: Deltasonic Records
With the Zutons’ debut hitched to the end of the wave of rock revival groups – The Strokes, The Killers – as well as swatting away Merseyside The Coral comparisons (They’re from the same place! That guy played in the band), it was hard not to dismiss the album as just one more glutted act to the market. But if you were around to eyeball the album artwork or maybe actually catch one of the singles, you may have heard or seen the edge the group had: a little bit of bit of punky, vervy weirdness. I don’t know how deep the album is, but it’s a good listen, with singles sticking in your head longer than some of its more celebrated peers.
The second album – with Brit pop producer Stephen Street at the helm – logically sharpened up the pop without losing the group’s edge.
For their third and final disc, You Can Do Anything, that trend somewhat continues, although the edge isis very much very much buried in the mix, big sound producer George Drakoulis (Black Crowes, Tom Petty) choosing to or encouraging the band to play up rhythm uber alles. This isn’t a bad thing: Song for song, this is the Zutes most solid release, every single moment sharp and confident and worthy of a toe tap. But there’s something lurking just beyond the reach of the disc – hinted at by the rush of opener or the stomping fury of You Could Make The Four Walls Cry (they really should’ve let Abi Harding sing more often ) – that gets played down in the disc’s latter half. You can’t really tell at first glance, given the sense of completeness of the compositions, and Drakoulis by no means shorts the songs of volume or richness, with choruses bright and bold and, when the group lets loose, that core rhythm rips over the speakers, but if you check the final moments of penultimate track Give Me a Reason, you’ll catch a momentous ending… that’s kept a little shy of being unleashed. And with headphones, you hear the guitar struggling under the noise to make a sound. Once noticed, this can be heard on other songs as well. Now there’s a more nuanced study here, considering how the group had just replaced a guitarist, and so who knows if that was a factor, compositionally or what have you. But: It’s what keeps the album shy of being a masterpiece of funking rock, the sax fully utilized to bring the tunes to the next level; McCabe’s vocal range varied from furious yelps to soothing croons. I mean, sure, the lyrics are still a hodgepodge of easy rhymes, but the focus on working class money and relationship struggles feels fitting for the earthy groove the group developed.
On the one hand, it’s a far cry from 3D glasses and self-referencing songs. On the other hand, the Zutons’ energy is alive and well, cooked to perfection through years of experience and some trials and tribulations, and helmed close to perfection by some really smart production. There’s that occasional hint of spice that maybe makes you wish they’d pushed things just a bit further, but there’s no guarantee it would’ve resulted in as solid of an album.