The Mooney Suzuki, Have Mercy

Chris Roberts

By Chris Roberts

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Somehow New York's notorious garage-pop band (named after the first two vocalists in Can) have shuffled through a decade now without enjoying the swift, snowballing success of the Strokes and other peers. Yet they may have the last laugh, and not just because (ironically or what?) they get fat cheques for contributing songs to Suzuki ads. After establishing themselves as hard-working, soulful rockers with tunes to burn across such albums as the astutely-titled Electric Sweat, they wobbled during an ill-advised experiment with “maximalism,” crafting the over-the-top Alive & Amplified opus with Avril Lavigne's production crew the Matrix. They tried to sell out; they failed. Fortunately their good-natured contributions to Jack Black's School of Rock movie, plus the fact that they still — as is gloriously evidenced here — cut it, mean they retain our goodwill.

New York’s most underappreciated garage rockers get back to basics.

This fifth album finds them doing what they do best: cooking together the best elements of '60s Brit-pop, hard-ass punk and Stax-infused blues, and delivering a rush of something as delicious as it is derivative. From the fevered grind of “99%” on, they don't let up. Sammy James Jr. curls his larynx around some cutely insightful couplets as the guitars ring like the Faces, Badfinger, the Raspberries and even (whisper it) Peter Frampton never went away. They play dumb, embracing clichés (as on “You Never Wanted to Rock” or “Good Ol'Alcohol”), but catch you unawares with poignant twists. The splendid “First Comes Love” shifts from the Ramones doing Spector to Elvis Costello getting happy, revealing a lyrical pay-off which Hal David wouldn't disown. It's all clever, authentic and thoroughly exhilarating