Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#861 in the Series) Is The Zutons, Who Killed ….. The Zutons
The Zutons may very well be the summation of rock music at the turn of the century. What I mean by that is if I had to pick one album that incorporates one of the most varied mix of styles and influences from rock history, it would be their debut Who Killed…… The Zutons. The alchemy of the sound includes psychedelia, punk, folk, and garage rock. There is the raw energy of the 60’s, the flamboyant coolness of the 70’s, the tight pop of the 80’s, and the grungy bite of the 90’s. All their influences are often so seamlessly blended together that the style of The Zutons becomes difficult to define.
Who Killed…… The Zutons has a little bit for everybody in it. The album kicks off with an energetic punk and alternative tone. The mood later moves to some slower relaxed numbers and bright pop sing-a-longs thrown in the mix. The main songwriter and singer, David McCabe, has a great sense of imagery and originality. One of my favorite songs off of this album is “Railroad” which is told from the perspective of a Chinese immigrant writing letters back to his love interest back home. This song is a great spin and perspective for the closest thing to a love song on the album.
The Zutons earned their chops on the road and are widely considered to be a great live act. The band was formed in Liverpool in 2001 and their debut album Who Killed…… The Zutons was not released until 2004. The name of the band is taken from American guitarist Bill Harkleroad who was better known as Zoot Horn Rollo. Harkleroad is known for having played with Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band. As any respectable Englishman would do, a shorter nickname was derived from Zoot Horn. The Zutons formed as a quartet initially. Group member Sean Payne’s girlfriend, Abi Harding, joined the band on stage to play saxophone during one of the band’s performances. The positive reaction from the crowd and the enhancement to the group’s sound turned Abi into the fifth member of the group. What a great choice it was because the saxophone has played a prevalent role in The Zuton catalogue.
Many of the songs have a whimsical atmosphere while at the same time having a bit of a dark undertone. This kind of yin and yang is consistent throughout the album. Horrific scenes are described in “Nightmare Part II” and “Havana Gang Brawl.” The music is not near as somber as the lyrics would indicate. If you read the lines first, I don’t think anyone would have imagined the sound that ended up on the record. A lot of the inspiration for the songs on this album appears to come from the day to day life experiences of McCabe or most youths living in England. Songs such as “Not a Lot to Do” and “Confusion” describe issues that would arise on a typical day. These songs are juxtaposed to “Dirty Dancehall” that describes a club scene with quite the doom and gloom perspective.
The darker more pessimistic take on some of the songs appear as though McCabe is struggling with his own demons as he is singing. As you listen to the struggle and strife the music serves as a therapeutic release. The most poignant example of this would be the end of “Pressure Point.” The song builds and builds until it all blows up with McCabe screaming pressure over and over. The song made more since to me after listening to the full album. The songs that follow show a person struggling with a way to make sense of everything and the ensuing pressure that any sane person would have when you really think about the ridiculousness of everything.
In the end, entering the world of The Zutons is a zany adventure. Quirky, energetic, and having some laughs while dealing with the frustrations of trying to make sense of a crazy world. With so many elements and variation packed into this album, there is a little bit for everybody. I’m left with just one question, who did kill The Zutons?
– Jay Kretchmar, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma USA
- “Zuton Fever” 3:08
- “Pressure Point” 3:16
- “You Will You Won’t” 2:54
- “Confusion” 3:32
- “Havana Gang Brawl” 4:30
- “Railroad” 3:39
- “Long Time Coming” 2:20
- “Nightmare Part II” 3:00
- “Not a Lot to Do” 3:47
- “Remember Me” 3:20
- “Dirty Dancehall” 4:09
- “Moons and Horror Shows” 2:36
Listen to the album in its entirety below… (12 songs)