When The Coral emerged from Liverpool a few years ago, the band's stitching-together of Zombies-style hypno-pop and echoing, squawking post-punk sounded more adventurous and original than derivative. Now, along comes fellow Liverpudlian outfit The Zutons with a debut album, Who Killed......, that sounds almost exactly like The Coral, only more practiced. The similarity doesn't initially matter much, since the sound of hooting horn sections, sharp guitars, funky rhythms, and breathy vocals gives songs like "Pressure Point" a genial pop push. But on repeated listens, The Zutons' music turns into one of those holographic pictures that show one image when tilted to the right and another when tilted to the left. At certain moments, slight tracks like the stomping "You Will You Won't" and the lilting "Confusion" sound harmlessly catchy and clean. At others, they seem hollow and a little pathetic.
Mainly, The Zutons' debut suffers from secondhand mustiness. The band doesn't seem to have recombined The Coral's sources in a personal way; instead, it's made a crisp copy, with no spirit of its own. Wily veteran Bryan Poolewho's been kicking around the Athens music scene since the early '90s, playing with early Elephant 6 disciples Elf Power and Of Montrealoccupies the other side of The Zutons' coin. A broad-minded alt-rock enthusiast, Poole has admitted to past obsessions with Robyn Hitchcock and Uncle Tupelo, and on his 2003 debut solo EP Kumquat Mae, recorded under the moniker The Late BP Helium, he showed a deep understanding of George Harrison's pop mysticism.
The Late BP Helium's first full-length solo album, Amok, begins with "Belief System Derailment Scenario," the kind of horn-fueled rock vamp that either The Coral or The Zutons would be happy to claim. By the end of that song, Poole has shaken off its krautrock opening for an extended freeform jam that lands safely back in the pocket. On the tracks that follow, The Late BP Helium tugs gently at avant-garde folk-rock and thrift-shop psychedelia, finding comfortable places to nestle. Amok is delightful throughout, but it's best on "Bluebeard" (two minutes of airy, piano-backed pop that winds down just before it dissipates) and "I Tried To Make It With You" (a power boogie for the bookish). On those songs and elsewhere, Poole sounds like a man who's internalized the pleasures of his vast record collection and can reproduce the feeling as much as the sound.