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.
2. This Broke Heart of Mine
3. Adam and Eve
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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