Sometimes you hear a band and you go, ‘Yep, that’s for me’. It was like that when I heard Who Killed the Zutons? for the first time. It was, and remains, a pleasingly riffy indie album with added saxophone and an incredibly high tune count. My word. If they continued like this, I may have found my new favourite band! Sure, the fact that they couldn’t seem to settle on a definitive track sequencing was worrying, and something which means that the version of Who Killed the Zutons? that I became so familiar with isn’t even the ‘definitive’ version.
Sequencing confusion aside, it’s the tunes on Who Killed the Zutons? that still endure 15 years later. “Pressure Point”, “You Will, You Won’t”, “Zuton Fever”, “Remember Me”, “Don’t Ever Think (Too Much)”, these are brilliant indie pop tunes released at a time when the onslaught of reality TV spawned acts on the charts was starting to intensify. If airplay was based on merit rather than marketing, Who Killed the Zutons? would have been an absolute monster hit album, but as it was, while it gained interest among indie pop tunes, it ultimately fell short of being the cross over hit that it deserved to be.
Who Killed the Zutons? is an album of surprising depth and range. Sure, there are the songs that were the expected up-tempo indie disco floor-fillers, but there are different textures too, such as the confessional “Confusion”, a pathos laden admission of being a bit of a dick in relationship, and still walking away from the emotional wreckage you have created. It’s gut-punching stuff, and the sort of song which gave you the confidence that The Zutons had a long and lucrative career stretching out ahead of them.
What marks out Who Killed the Zutons? as an album that I continue to return to all these years later is the fact that it sounds like the band members had an absolute riot recording it. It’s a joyous sounding album, and even where the album hits its more downbeat numbers, it retains its sense of quality. Sure, there is the odd misfire like “Railroad”, but even then, it’s not actually a bad tune, just one that isn’t quite as good as the others.
Who Killed the Zutons? was just the first step on the long and successful career of the Zutons. Or at least, it was supposed to be. Their next album, Tired of Hanging Around, would boast a couple of phenomenal tunes, but as a whole there was far too much filler, and they were very lucky that Amy Winehouse latched on to one of the album’s few strong numbers and made “Valerie” a massive hit. One tepidly received album later and the Zutons called it a day.
From a debut overflowing with promise, to the biggest name in British pop at the time covering one of their tunes, to a split in five years, The Zutons packed a tremendous amount into their short career, but Who Killed the Zutons? is their greatest moment.