Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

“Who Killed the Zutons”: A forgettable approach to a forgotten genre

Margaret Bauer

The Zutons
Who Killed the Zutons?

Deltasonic
For fans of: Stealers Wheel, The Coral, I Am Kloot
Grade: C-

Final word: A boring, unaccomplished recycling of influences.
Song to download: “Zuton Fever”

Nostalgia in the music business has been the norm in the past few years, with bands like the White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand, and the Scissor Sisters revisiting the rock and pop of the late ’60s and ’70s and infusing the music with their own (occasionally unique) personal touches. Though it’s difficult to call these recent efforts original or groundbreaking in any way, they each manage to offer something a bit different than the music that inspired them, using their influences as a rough sonic blueprint on which to elaborate.

The Zutons, from Liverpool, England, might also fall into this category. Instead of offering just another garage revival act in an already oversaturated market, they pick some rather unusual music on which to offer their take. On their new (in the U.S.) album, “Who Killed the Zutons,” they draw from the eclectic, oft-forgotten genres of early ’60s surf music and ’70s lite rock like Stealers Wheel. Alhough they pick some interesting source material, it’s pretty clear that the anxiety of influence weighs a bit heavier on the Zutons than it does on their contemporaries. They never seem quite able to escape the confines of the genres that they co-opt, and by the end of the album it feels like they’ve run out ideas.

“Who Killed the Zutons” opens promisingly enough with “Zuton Fever,” which sounds a bit like early ’60s surf music filtered through the rose-colored glasses of late ’60s psychedelia. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. Lead single “Pressure Point” features the same trite, repetitive lyrics and annoying bursts of saxophone that appear in some iteration in each following song. “Confusion” is the band’s attempt at a ballad, complete with a limp instrumental backing track and one of the most lackluster saxophone solos I’ve ever heard. “Havana Gang Brawl” sounds like a late ’60s protest song, but it’s unclear what, if anything, the Zutons are protesting. It also features one of the most cringe-worthy lyrics I’ve heard in quite some time: “Only one option left / To survive or you’ll be dead.”

What might have been a novel idea turns into a boring recycling of source material without any real innovation. Though they’ve had a couple minor hits in their home country, it’s likely that “Who Killed the Zutons” will become a self-fulfilling prophecy for another mediocre nostalgia act.

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