The Zutons / The Upper Room - Manchester Night & Day - 13.4.06

For a city with the musical legacy of Manchester you have to wonder why it took XFM so long to launch up here, but thank god they're hear now. Previously those old enough to remember will remember the days of Pete & Geoff on Key 103 before they left the north or even Terry Christians previous show on Rock FM (before he joined GMR), but these were the exceptions rather than the rule and chances are you'd turn on the airwaves to the latest europop hit or ginger Manc Mick Hucknall. XFM's output is very much in the vein of the zeitgeist with a little Hard Fi, Gnarls Barkley and Gorillaz for the noughties with the likes of Oasis, Stone Roses and the Charlatans bringing up the Manc contingent.

This XFM Access All April gig with the Zutons and The Upper Room is the 3rd in a series of gigs throughout the month with previous gigs including Embrace and The Go Team and the hot ticket that is The Charlatans still to come.

The Upper Room are possibly the only band who can claim to have played with Rooster and Hope Of The States within a 12 month period, but such is their appeal that shortly after coming off stage a gaggle of girls nervously hover around while a 50 year old man walks up saying they're one of the best bands to come out of Britain in the past 10 years. Despite the bands protestations that they only listened to the band once the comparisons started flooding in, it's hard to mention The Upper Room without saying The Smiths in the same breathe. Not that frontman Alex Miller tries to be El Moz, he's more an Elfin Marc Almond or Neil Tennant figure, but musically the jingly jangly Marr-isms are all in place for "All Over This Town" and "Black And White" as are the grainy gritty northern videos that could have come out of a Taste Of Honey. Without crack habits or supermodel girlfriends The Upper Room are gonna struggle to win over the indie fashionistas, but the album is going to appeal to anyone who loves music for music.

Somehow the Zutons became one of our biggest bands without us really noticing and by the time they'd finished off the promotional trip for "Who Killed The Zutons?" they were selling out the likes of the Manchester Apollo. Almost transcending the Mersey sound that they and the Coral made their own, the new album is a mix-match of the pop hooks they had previously only streamlined into a swamp-blues driven bass which will appeal more to middle America than the quirks that us Brits know and love.

At times Dave McCabe struggles to command the attention of the competition winners, but the hardcore fans down the front (would they be called Zutonites or Zutonettes or is that just fanciful) in touching distance of Fraggle Rock-esque sex kitten Abi Harding sing along to the hits "Don't Ever Think" and "Zuton Fever". It doesn't matter for those in the sweaty confines of the front that the odd album track passes us by because the moment the groove hits full speed you get lost in a tantric scouse vision anyway.

New single "Why Won't You Give Me Your Love?" away from the terrible West Side Zutons video they've made stands out as one of their finest moments and the new album "Oh Stacey" may have knocked out the quirks, but unlike the Coral who seemed to falter with each successive album it seems the Zutons could go onto bigger and better things.

Alex McCann
Photos: Shirlaine Forrest

Click here to leave your Zutons comments on the Message Board
(NB: The message board opens in a new window so please disable your pop-up blocker to view)