Like its predecessor Tired of Hanging Around, The Zutons' difficult third album features another cast of flaky characters culled from the seedier corners of David McCabe's imagination, though the inevitable attrition means that none has quite the anthemic appeal of "Valerie". The closest they come here are "Always Right Behind You", an exercise in lolloping Seventies boogie-pop, and "Dirty Rat", an adulterer's mea culpa set to the first cousin of a Kaiser Chiefs melody; but neither quite repays one's curiosity in full.
Elsewhere, too many of McCabe's targets – the self-explanatory "Family of Leeches", the ambivalent sex-worker in "Freak", the "tapeworm" blagger in "Bumbag" – are largely a series of Aunt Sally clichés, hoisted up simply to be knocked down again. And while "Harder and Harder" and "Give Me a Reason" accurately evoke the pervasive mood of confusion and uncertainty assailing our benighted kingdom, one suspects the latter track's tedious funk-rock coda is only an accidental representation of our current sense of stasis.
Pick of the album:'Harder and Harder', 'Always Right Behind You', 'Dirty Rat'