Like Mike Skinner, The Zutons have experienced the heady rush of success, and it has changed them. But unlike The Streets' sourly hedonistic The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, with its account of Skinner's descent into indulgence and disillusion, Tired of Hanging Around presents a band transformed in mostly positive ways.
The most immediately noticeable change is the sheer power the band now wield: this is a much more muscular, focused sound that's vastly more engaging than their debut. The months of non-stop gigging have clearly served The Zutons well, moulding them into a steelier unit. And David McCabe, forced to come up with a fresh batch of material at short notice, has responded with a series of punchy songs that lean heavily on their hooks. Perhaps they just haven't been given enough time to fiddle around and spoil the songs, but for whatever reason, there's a singularity of purpose about the album that works to their advantage.
Which is not to say that McCabe hasn't been suffering the same kind of overload as Mike Skinner. Songs such as the unrepentant party anthem "Hello Conscience" and the hangover lament "It's the Little Things We Do", suggest he's supped just as deeply at the rock'n'roll trough, but remains less pessimistic about its drawbacks. After all, he could be like the uptight subject of the title-track, worrying away the best days of his life, or the protagonist of "I Know I'll Never Leave", too scared to take a chance: "Now and then I dream of what I could have been... but if I left, where would I go?".
Instead, he's lapped up the opportunities afforded by his new celebrity, knocking around with dodgy American girls like "Valerie", loveable but criminally unreliable, and the heroine of "Oh Stacey (Look What You've Done)", who squanders her inheritance after finding her dad dead on the sofa.
Not that McCabe himself is exactly a paragon of virtue, judging by "You've Got a Friend in Me" and "Why Won't You Give Me Your Love?", a pair of stalker songs which shift from the merely creepy to the downright sinister in the latter case, the singer fantasising about kidnapping a girl and keeping her locked in his basement, so he can "poke and prod" her. Small wonder that he should advise others, in "Secrets", to keep their own counsel about their "dirty little secrets". Or, indeed, that he should suffer the night terrors of "Someone Watching Over Me" and the emotional inadequacies of "How Does It Feel?". After all, one stalker fantasy is just about excusable, but two in such close proximity leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.
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