The new Cut Copy is quite great
I tried to piece together all the things even one song reminded me of, but it’s a bit of an impossible task. Anyway, here’s my attempt:
After a bit of distorted noodling, Strangers In The Wind kicks off in a verse that sounds like Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams or America’s Ventura Highway. Acoustic guitars, warm bass and acoustic drums, a bit of slide guitar in the background… In come more contemporary electro synth chords and the acoustic guitar abruptly stops as the bassline cranks up a notch for a refrain that sounds like an anthemic moment from Duran Duran (“Run to the lights of the city / This dance will last us forever”). A burst of sizzling noise, house beats drop in and tweaked chunks of sound from the opening verse swirl around between the kick drums – suddenly it’s like that Eric Prydz song that was based on Steve Winwood’s Valerie, except here it’s Cut Copy remixing themselves mid-track. After a few more breakdowns and shifts in scene a super contemporary synth riff comes in, sweeps up into a tinny distorted mess, and the song’s done. At the macro level the steady beat and traditional song structure make the stylistic shifts seem completely natural, but on closer dissection the song seems like it’s stitched together from bits and pieces from the last 40 years of pop history.
I can’t put my finger on who the guy sounds most like – bits sound like Human League, there’s a bit of New Order and when he goes up to the top of his (limited) register he’s heading towards Icehouse and even some Bryan Ferry moments. Oh and the guy from The Church. Maybe I should replace this para with the word “eighties”. ;)
Most of the album’s as dense and blatantly referential as Strangers In The Wind. It creates a weird mix of nostalgia, total familiarity and confusion. All the stylistic nods in a thousand directions could be really off-putting, but I reckon this manages to transcend the shittiness of a lot of “nu rave” acts for two reasons: 1) no song is a direct pastiche of one other thing (e.g. “here’s Cut Copy doing Roxy Music”, nor even “here’s Cut Copy doing 80s disco”) and 2) the guy actually knows how to write songs. The latter is (obviously!) important, because it means there’s something more to latch on to than the initial nerdy fun that comes with hearing familiar things recontextualised, a la mash-ups or someone like The Avalanches.
Sorry, enough babbling! Here’s the vid for Hearts on Fire. Don’t like the vid at all, but the song makes me far too happy. Can't get over the balls required to put that sax solo in!
Edit: Hm, they actually chop out the sax solo in the above vid. Ah well. Here's another one, set to a scene from the BMX racing movie Rad.