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ZUTONS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Who Killed....the Zutons (UK Deltasonic) 2004 (Deltasonic/Epic) 2004
Tired of Hanging Around (Columbia) 2006

Despite a snappy name, cool comic CD graphics and critical (and commercial) support in the UK, the debut album by this Liverpool five-piece fronted by singer/songwriter Dave McCabe and including a saxophone player (Abi Harding) test drives every style in the showroom and still gets nowhere. At times a junior-league Franz Ferdinand lacking only tunes and urgency, elsewhere a modern-day Merseybeat group still stuck in '60s R&B (bringing the Inmates to mind), the Zutons don one unconvincing guise after another, incarnating dreamy Lovin' Spoonful slop, musique noir, the Kinks (Soap Opera era), a prim waltz, hokey country (in two variations) and more with equal futility. Other bands have gotten away with similar diversity (Madness, for one) through an underlying character and material of consistent caliber. If some (any!) of the prism's sides shone with genuine creative achievement, the Zutons' capriciousness could actually be an asset. But none of the songs stick, and anyone who can't do better than a chorus that culminates in "You say you love day but you come out at night" (in the altogether inane "You Will You Won't") should at least be smart enough not to sing it over and over. Perhaps producer Ian Broudie, who definitely knows how to make a great record from both sides of the board, took the young band on as a lab experiment; maybe he was just testing out some new equipment on the label's dime. In any case, the Zutons' ambitious designs are hobbled by consistently mediocre songs. (Although the debut's UK release has a fancier foldout booklet and arty label, the American edition has an added song, "Don't Ever Think (Too Much)."

[Ira Robbins]