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The Mooney Suzuki
Have Mercy
V2 Records

The Mooney Suzuki open their new album, Have Mercy, with a song called "99%". This pretty much sums up the rest of the album. Have Mercy is a well-constructed, guitar rock record that has taken the previous Mooney Suzuki formulas and honed them just right. Like the past albums, the first of ten tracks launches into powerful, Angus Young-style guitar riffs.

The theme of life pops up more than once during Have Mercy. Sammy James Jr.'s lyrics are simple and direct; seize the moment before you die. It doesn't take multiple listens to get the message - "You'll never be older than dinosaur bones /and you'll never be older than The Rolling Stones".

It's slightly ironic that since leaving the goliath, Columbia Records, The Mooney Suzuki seem to have shifted toward a slightly less aggressive sound. While the past two albums were drowning in distortion and seemed more punk than anything else, Have Mercy shows the band turning down the gain and spending a little more time in the mixing room. The songs are more melodic on this record and for the first time, the band's harmonies really shine.

The highlight of the album is "Good Ol' Alcohol". This hysterical, belligerent romp is an example of Sammy James Jr.'s smartest songwriting and is backed by a tuba, trombone, clarinet, and tinkling glasses much in the style of The Defibulators. This ode to brew not only reinforces the album's main theme, it's really funny and shows that the band hasn't quite grown up. Take, for example, lines like, "That good ol' alcohol finds you in the bathroom stall / with your face inside the toilet, curled up in a little ball". If there were ever any ambiguity about the band's stance on drugs, it's answered by this song which ends with an a cappella rant that would make a younger Tom Waits smile.

Just when you've recovered from the barroom brawl, The Mooney pull a 180 and launch into a beautiful, emotional ballad called "The Prime of My Life". On this track, James shifts from his usual Hendrix vocals to a tender Trey Anastasio sound and takes a moment to talk about the song's title.

Have Mercy, though poppy and more accessible to a wider range of listeners, remains true to the Mooney's roots of loose, retro, garage rock. In addition, the band has dropped the retro cd packaging of their past and seems less fixated on a 60's vibe and more focused on having fun and rocking. Amid an industry so focused on the charts, it's appealing to find a band who refuses to take themselves too seriously. Despite their growth, The Mooney Suzuki haven't gotten old and they sure as hell haven't lost their sense of humor.

-Jon Murray

Track Listing:
1. 99%
2. This Broke 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

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