Say Zuzu's first studio album since 1998's "Bull" (not counting last year's Hog Mawl side project) finds the New Hampshire quartet with a new rhythm section and rocking rather harder than on their earlier albums.
Whatever the reason, where the group was reminiscent of The Jayhawks, Uncle Tupelo and the Buffalo Springfield on earlier albums, the new record kicks off with a trio of rockers that bring to mind The Replacements as much as anyone; if not the booze-soaked reprobates of "Hootenany," then at least the eager young turks of "Tim" and "Pleased to Meet Me," with the Zuzus in particularly good form on Nolan's "Wish Me Well" and "Grow."
Lest one think that the band is bent on little else than channeling their inner Paul Westerberg, Murphy's pleading "Don't Leave" and "Independence Day" are quieter numbers. Indeed, Murphy tends to provide most of the band's quieter, acoustic-based numbers (he wrote the vast majority of songs on the more country-oriented Hog Mawl album), while Nolan's songs often rock harder.
The maturation of Say Zuzu over the group's past three albums has been interesting - and rewarding - to watch, and Nolan's and Murphy's writing has become increasingly sophisticated and self-assured over the past five or six years. Frankly, the band should be a lot better known than they are. Say Zuzu