The Zutons

Try this simple experiment. Name the city of Liverpool, then think at a band. Ask anyone around you to do the same.

There are no chances someone will come with a different answer and no, you are not a magician. Giving birth to a phenomenon as the Beatles changes forever the future of city’s music scene.

The only other band that springs to my mind from there are Echo and the Bunnymen. With all respect a couple of leagues below. Then nothing significant unless you want to count 80s pop one-hit wonders as Dead or Alive …you spin me round and Frankie Goes To Hollywood … Relax, don’t do it.

Just into the third millennium, the city became quite prolific. Thanks to a label, Deltasonic, Liverpool scene has been blossoming. Several bands appeared, all approaching pop music from different angles. It is another consequence you pay to Lennon/McCartney. To avoid that people (and journalists) link you to them you prefer to play death metal than getting close to any sort of melodic, Mersey-beat.

The Coral have been the bravest. They are not any similar to the Beatles, but the psych pop of their origins, is clearly coming from the same (outer)space and the melodic sensitivity has that “magical mistery” tradition.

The Dead 60s instead opted for a kind of punk-reggae approach winking at Joe Strummer. To far away from Brixton, they split after the second unsuccessful album.

The Rascals do not look the gifted band you would expect from Alex Turner‘s best friend, give me time to make up my mind, they’ll be on these pages next.

At the peak of the Deltasonic success, are The Zutons.
I don’t know which is my problem with the Zutons but I know I have a problem with them. It has been 5 years I investigate and still no sign of an answer, let’s see if writing about them will help me someway.

I adventured to another of their concerts to see if my mixture of prejudice and pretentiousness could be erased by their music.
Cambridge students are on Christmas leave, Cambridge is fucking boring, nothing happens until 2009, my love is enjoying London and I am a compulsive concert addict. This to justify why I went.

The Zutons gig was not bad. Better than my expectations and much better of the previous one few years back.

Corn Exchange is sold-out and plenty of kids. I mean really 10 years old children came with their parents and waiting impatiently for them. It was the same years ago and they can’t be the same children.
Targeting children is a successful marketing strategy, as McDonald should have suggested you. You get a customer and it comes with at least another paying adult then it is more likely to be faithful in the future.

The Zutons have an appeal on children, which can account for one of the reasons I am not into them. No, not because I don’t like children, I do, but because I don’t like that sort of playful mood that usually goes along with kids’ catchy tunes.
If you have ever witnessed the crazy reception when their hit, You Will You Won’t is played you also know why I am longing for The National to release a new album.

Dave McCabe, the singer, has grown his long curly ginger hair. Imagine a crossover of Robert Plant, Robert Arkins (the main actor from Alan Parker’s The Commitments), Mick Hucknall (from the Simply red) and unfortunately Zucchero (Sugar) Fornaciari (the italian shame. Don’t know who he is? Good for you).
He probably wanted to be more rock’n’roll than such a picture, not sure he managed, good effort, though.

Paul Molloy, the new guitarist is the good news of the night. (Don’t google him, you would stumble on an Elvis Presley tribute, I hope it is not his Mr. Hyde)
The Zutons’ Molloy, compared to previous guitarist Boyan Chowdhury, who left the band for “musical differences” adds a rockier bit to the music and makes the difference with the past. He tries to bring the whole thing out of that volatile nonsense mix of “psych-funk-pop-stomp” with some more concrete guitar work. It seems successful both on new songs and rearrangements.

Abi Harding, gig after gig, stepped to the front. From being drummer’s girlfriend and sporadically a session-woman, she first became part of the full-time line-up as saxophonist and now shares quite a lot of the singing, which even caused the addition of a further sax man.
Most important, she is the children, teenagers and even some dads’ favourite. Guess why. I give you a hint, her saxophone skills are the worst to appear on the music scene since Steve Norman left Spandau Ballet.
Chill out, men, she is engaged with Sean Payne, which is also Zutons’ drummer. Full stop.

I should say something about Russell Pritchard, the bass player, but with a nickname as “The Pharaoh” I am inhibited. I copy&paste from his Wiki page. “Russell “The Pharaoh” Pritchard (born Russell Thomas Pritchard 22 May 1979) is the bass guitarist of English rock band, The Zutons, which formed in Liverpool in 2001″. Clear and coincise, isn’t it? If you have something to add, comment is free!

Why have I kind of introduced the band member by member?
Because I am feeling this recipe is bringing an answer to surface.

Take The Zutons one by one and as a group. Then add their audience: a mixture of happy kids, parents, teenagers and middle age men.
Decorate everything with the worst logo ever selected to represent a band. A letter Z, spiky and ubiquitous. The even metallic version on latest album cover would be quite appropriate for a brand of cheap kitchen blenders.

Got it? Use it. Mix them in a pop cocktail and drink.
Tasty? No. Why? Because Zutons are uncool. That is the answer and the problem.
Indie-ness is all about cool-ness. You need with the music a cool look to stand out of the crowd and appeal on indie fans. They need something to use to be as cool as you.

See Bobby Gillespie, Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, Paul Weller and even Pete Doherty.
Than take the Zutons. There’s not comparison, is there?
They belong to the same league with Keane, Kaiser Chiefs, Snow Patrol, Athlete.
Long hair, shorts, saxophones, pirate flag, comix. What the fuck? Clumsy, disastrous attempts to find a way.

Guys, you have some music skill, a lot of determination, passion. Your very young fans will grow up soon. Please, either concentrate on writing good songs or apply to be next Jordan‘s (sorry, Katie Price) ghostwriter and commit yourselves to children’s stories.

The Zutons and their music are here, learn more from their [myspace] [website]

Photo tip

I wanted to start a section about lenses for a while, this was the right night to use one of my favourite lens, nevertheless the one I use less at gigs.

The 18mm

Ultra wide-angles are the most challenging approach to photography. There is no grey zone. They either deliver useless image (most of the time) or great shots. With an angle of view twice as large as your eyes the effect is automatically atypical.

At gig using a 18mm is difficult for several reasons.

You need to get really close. When I say close I mean centimetres. The closer you are the better. Be careful to not upset musicians, rockstars have a temper!

You need a lot of light, especially frontlights. If not your shots will be a dark frame with some scattered white spots.

You need either a neutral or meaningful backstage. The large depth of field associated with this lens will deliver all sharp images even at full aperture, the back will be evident.

Be careful if putting your subject at the edge of the frame. The strong distortion on the border can be pleasing with a sort of photojournalist feel but can also be disturbing.

Be very careful on measuring the light. Usually cameras tend to overexpose with wideangles if most of the scene is dark. Check (if you can) on your LCD, spot measure (if you can) on an average lit zone or try bracketing. Avoid automatisms.

Relax, it is not all bad, there are even some advantages.

You can use slower shutter speeds without getting blurred images. 1/30s is certainly ok but even 1/15s works out if you are steady and the band does not move a lot.

You do not need to worry about focusing. The extended depth of field gives a large zone of in focus even at wide apertures.

Don’t overuse it. The secret of a good photographic set is always in the balance of wide angle shots with some close ups to bring the viewer closer to the act.

If you want to see more examples, check the exceptional work of Todd Owyoung on Without contest the most talented ultra-wide-angle concert photographer I have ever seen.

~ by Valerio on December 12, 2008.

One Response to “The Zutons”

  1. il loro primo album non mi è dispiaciuto. peccato che la tipa non indossasse una gonna pantalone…

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