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The Mooney Suzuki - Have Mercy

Mooney Suzuki, Have Mercy

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE Mooney Suzuki haven’t had it easy. They continue to be criminally under-appreciated, they’ve had to endure the closure of their record label and doubts existed about their unity right up until the release of this fourth album, Have Mercy.

But now that it’s finally out, the onus is on fans to give it the support it deserves. We first became aware of the Mooney Suzuki following the brilliant Alive & Amplified way back in 2004, a song that seemed certain to propel them into the limelight.

Alas, they didn’t explode as anticipated even though 2006’s Maximum Black LP was well-received. Since then, however, they’ve endured a topsy-turvy time.

When Sammy James Jr was writing the album there was no guarantee there would even be a Mooney Suzuki by the time it was finished. The band had parted ways with Columbia in the UK, the revolving rhythm section was again in disarray and guitarist Graham Tyler had bowed out of the group.

Unsure of the band’s future, James changed his songwriting approach. Instead of vocals being added last and relying on electric riffage or rhythm section flash to carry the song, the lyric and melody took prominence. The result is a record that’s tighter and more reigned in than normal, that extols the best virtues of classic bands such as The Byrds and Love, with a little Primal Scream, Rolling Stones and Motown influences thrown in.

It hooks you in from the very first track, 99%, a gutsy, old-school fusion of rock and soul that drops a scintillating, Stones-influenced guitar riff, some hand-clap beats and an upbeat set of lyrics (“when you’ve had it with the aggravation”). The “na, na, na, na” chorus is made for chanting along (complete with hands in the air), while the gospel backing is pure Motown. It’s a heady intro that properly gets the party started and recaptures the early thrill of hearing Alive & Amplified way back when…

Further highlights come in the form of This Broke Heart Of Mine which, again, features some fine guitar work (this time more scuzzed up) and a nicely bluesy vocal performance from James Jr, and the similarly riff-strewn Adam & Eve which even comes over all Lalo Schiffrin courtesy of some wonderful ’70s flutes and a Beach Boys “ba, ba, ba” vocal melody. It’s a class act.

Rock N Roller Girl, meanwhile, is just a feel-good listen that’s bursting with more melodies than you can shake a pair of roller skates at.

Later on, Good Ol’ Alcohol is sure to become an anthem in waiting for anyone that’s ever indulged in a Saturday night binge. It’s foot-stomping beats, lazy vocal delivery, playful lyrics (“I’ve become so much more civilized since moving on to spirits and beers”), extravagant brass section and banjo guitars combine to create a thrilling high that’s tailor-made for singing along to when the occasion demands it (preferably beer, wine glass or spirit shot in hand!).

The tender side of the band is focused on the folksy The Prime Of My Life, a stripped back effort that’s bursting with more great lyrics, and there’s another strong rhythm section on Down But Not Out.

Of the two bonus tracks, the final offering You Never Really Wanted To Rock ‘n’ Roll is an anthemic dancefloor filler that contains nods to Jailhouse Rock-era Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s a thrilling finale to an excellent album that really marks a triumph against adversity for this brilliant New York outfit. Buy it!

Download picks: 99%, This Broke Heart Of Mine, Adam And Eve, Good ‘Ol Alcohol, You Never Really Wanted To Rock ‘n’ Roll

Track listing:

  1. 99%
  2. This Broken Heart Of Mine
  3. Adam And Eve
  4. Ashes
  5. Rock ‘N’ Roller Girl
  6. First Comes Love
  7. Mercy Me
  8. Good Ol’ Alcohol
  9. The Prime Of Life
  10. Down But Not Out
  11. Leap Of Faith
  12. You Never Really Wanted To Rock ‘n’ Roll