The Mooney Suzuki

Have Mercy

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The Mooney Suzuki ran into some problems after the release of Alive & Amplified in 2004. They left Columbia and landed with V2, which folded before their next album, Have Mercy, could be released; had some lineup tumult; and were struck by the death of guitarist Graham Tyler's father, a huge rock & roll fan and Suzuki supporter. In fact, Tyler was so shook up he didn't contribute any songs to the album, leaving Sammy James, Jr., as the only writer on Have Mercy. As he wrote, he didn't know if the songs were going to be for the band or his first solo album. Tyler stuck with the band, though, and after almost a year the album finally surfaced. The hard luck and bad times seem to have inspired the band to invest more emotion and energy into the record, as it has tons more power and style than Alive did at about half the effort. On the best tracks like midtempo bubblegum rocker "Rock 'N' Roller Girl," the country-rock-y "Down But Not Out," the very Urge Overkill-sounding power ballad "Adam and Eve," or the rollicking "This Broke Heart of Mine," the performances are more subdued and interesting, the lyrics darker and smarter, and the mood much more reflective and moody. The uptempo rockers are decent ("99%" is the best with its appropriation of an huge AC/DC-inspired riff) but sound a little forced in comparison. Forced but not embarrassingly so, which is a huge improvement over A&A. Where the band really gets it all together is on "First Comes Love," a melodic, melancholy tale of love found and squandered that sounds like a lost hit from the '70s power pop scene and has the kind of hooky chorus that'll be stuck in your head for days. Where they get it all wrong is on the jokey, good-timey "Good Ol' Alcohol," which is one of those kind of silly story-songs that you'll only ever want to hear once, if at all, and stops the album dead in its tracks. So if you were expecting the Mooney Suzuki to keep stumbling down the path of overblown rawk & roll, you'll be glad to know they are back making good, if uneven, records. Have Mercy isn't in the same league as Electric Sweat, but it's not as horrific as Alive & Amplified. [The album ends with two bonus tracks that would have been better left in the can: the trite acoustic ballad "Leap of Faith" and the generic and somewhat bitter rocker "You Never Really Wanted to Rock 'N' Roll" that seemingly blames their declining popularity on the fickle nature of their fans instead of their own artistic fumbles.]

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