When The Zutons first sprung to public attention two years ago, it was difficult to know what to make of them. They continued the city of Liverpool’s rich vein of musical form, yet didn’t sound like any of their contemporaries. Erstwhile Lightning Seed Ian Broudie managed to meld a wildly eclectic mix of indie guitar rock, ’60s influenced pop and Dave McCabe’s often dark lyrics into a winningly listenable whole. They could even get away with a saxophone over most tracks, which most bands really wouldn’t even dream of doing.
Since Who Killed The Zutons, they’ve hit the big time, whether it be through Mercury nominations or support slots with both U2 and REM. Yet this obviously hasn’t gone to the band’s collective head, as Tired Of Hanging Around is as delightfully quirky, original and catchy as its predecessor, whilst also representing something of a leap forward.
In common with a lot of albums which follow up a successful debut, there’s a new found confidence and swagger shot through the whole album. Lead single Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love is a fine example – it’s a wonderfully stomping affair with lyrics that, at first listen, sound like a conventional lover’s plea. On closer inspection though, it’s got black humour stamped right through it, with McCabe telling tales of locking his intended in a cellar and feeding her rodent hair. It’s almost ridiculously infectious, with Abi Harding’s backing vocals adding to the general feel of lunacy.
That dark streak runs a mile wide through the album, with You’ve Got A Friend In Me being a disarmingly sweet duet between McCabe and Harding. It’s a brilliantly written song about a stalker and his victim, written from the point of view of the stalker (“if I got to knew you, it could all change”) – by the time McCabe cracks at the end of the song, it’s impossible not to feel a twinge of sympathy for the protagonist: “I want a new love, I’m sick of this pastime, but I’m scared of new love, it’s been such a long time”.
Elsewhere, It’s The Little Things You Do is endearingly manic, reminding one of The Bees‘ finer moments, while Valerie is just wonderful – it has an opening intro which appears to reference Tears For Fears‘ Everybody Wants To Rule The World and is a seemingly straightforward lovesick lovesong (“I miss your ginger hair, and the way you like to dress”). The bouncy, singalong Oh Stacey Look What You’ve Done is another gem, its upbeat melody hiding a sad story of a woman spending her late father’s money on booze every night.
Producer Stephen Street helps to shape a big, positive feel to the album (moments such as Hello Conscience and Little Things have ‘live favourites’ stamped all over them already), although the sense of melancholy and yearning added by tracks such as How Does It Feel or the bittersweet ode to Liverpool that is I Know I’ll Never Leave means that things never quite become overwhelmingly bright and sunny.
Guaranteed to appeal to fans of their first record, and commercial enough to also rope in some new admirers, Tired Of Hanging Around is an excellent second album that will only consolidate The Zutons’ appeal. It’s heartening that a band this eclectic and this original can still appeal to a wide audience. Tired of hanging around? Not for some time to come…