Zutons bring Brit rock to Boston on Friday

by Lindsay Barnes | 2/10/05 6:00am

In its storied history, the English port city of Liverpool has exported its fair share of great music to the world. Among the notable artists to come from the banks of the Mersey are legendary rocker Elvis Costello, '80s synth-pop icons Frankie Goes to Hollywood and permanent college radio darlings Echo and the Bunnymen. There was some other group from there that had a couple hits in the '60s. You know, the guys with funny haircuts and the goofy drummer? Oh well, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that Liverpool has produced yet another superb band and now you have a chance to see them.

Meet the Zutons -- they play punk-infused R&B, their live shows are consistently high-energy affairs and they will share bill with fellow Brits Keane Friday night at Boston's Orpheum Theatre. There's a chance you may already be acquainted with this plucky English gaggle. An excerpt of their single "Pressure Point" is the soundtrack for a Levi's ad featuring a large dog dutifully fetching his master's favorite jeans by literally tearing the pants off of his master's attractive girlfriend. While this type of semi-sadistic activity may not be your idea of a good time, "Pressure Point" and the rest of the group's debut album "Who Killed the Zutons?" is the kind of unfettered fun that the deviant and prudish alike can rally around.

The party began in 2002 when singer, rhythm guitarist and chief songwriter David McCabe joined up with lead guitarist Boyan Chowdhury, bassist Russell Pritchard and drummer Sean Payne to form the Zutons. After initial rehearsals, the four decided that there was still one more dash of panache missing from the puzzle. Enter Abi Harding. With a stage persona that's roughly 70 percent pixie and 30 percent Pixies, this alto saxophonist and percussionist proved to be a sprightly Clarence Clemons to McCabe's Bruce Springsteen and provided the spark that propelled the band on its current winning streak.

After toiling in relative obscurity while labelmates and fellow Liverpudlians the Coral broke big within U.S. and U.K. indie circles, the Zutons are now starting to get their due. In April of last year "Who Killedthe Zutons?" went gold in Britain and was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize.

The Zutons' highest profile gig in America to date was one in which they brought the house down in a very literal sense. Just as they were about to begin their set before 6,000 at the re-opening of New York's Modern Museum of Art, Payne hit his bass drum once and a lighting fixture fell crashing to the floor. Once it was clear nobody was hurt, the group proceeded to win over the hipsters in attendance, including New York indie rock legend David Byrne.

Considering how one good thing has led to another for the band, the future looks brighter than the light shimmering off the Mersey. Whether or not their string of good breaks continues remains to be seen. But in the here and now, you'd be hard pressed to find a more fun Friday with your jeans on than an evening with the Zutons.