It was only a few years ago that the Mooney Suzuki was raved about as one of the best no-frills bands the garage-rock revival had to offer. Ahead of the curve with their rock-till-you-drop New York swag, these greased-up sly cats were always on the verge of biting into bigger and better things. So what happened?
Full of clean-cut and cliché pop rock, Have Mercy removes what bite the Mooney Suzuki had left. The loose and slightly catchy boogie-down opener, “99%,” fails to cover up what inevitably follows: an unmemorable, downward tumble of cheesy, would-be ballads and heard-it-all-before guitar jingles, all glued together with sometimes painful lyrics. I cringed when I heard these lines on “Rock ‘N’ Roller-Girl”: “We may be growing older/ But you’ll never be older than dinosaur bones/ And you’ll never be older than the Rolling Stones.” More of this follows on “Good Ol’ Alcohol,” a goof of a song where James matter-of-factly acknowledges every drug he’s ever done, ultimately concluding that the bottle is the way to go. “Mercy Me” may be the only sigh of relief this ten-tracker breathes, but its dreary-swaggered change of pace is too little, too late, and like the rest of the album, it grows tiresome and is easily forgetful.
Maybe the emotional backdrop of the band seeped its way into the album (guitarist Graham Tyler almost quit during the recording of the album, leaving Sammy James Jr. with what would be more of a solo project than anything). Maybe the business troubles bogged things down. Maybe both. Either way, Have Mercy shows a band clinging on to the success it tasted in its glory days. Now Tyler and James sing about never growing older than those bands they’ve sought to emulate, rock ‘n’ roll girls, and drugs. At worst, it’s a sad attempt to save their own relevancy. At best, they’ve managed to pull off an album that might play well at the local town fair.