Album Review: Cut Copy, all carbon

Music

Cut Copy have always been sparse in the quantity of work they have released, tending to value quality over quantity. Indeed, November 5 will see the release of only their fourth full studio album in almost a decade and a half, following on the heels of 2008’s In Ghost Colours and 2011’s Zonoscope, both regarded as critical in new wave circles. Free Your Mind is streaming right now, and it’s not immediately apparent that Cut Copy have achieved anything salient in this latest offering.

Dan Whitford makes a case for his record’s concept: “The concept of freedom is one that’s universally positive and timeless, and whatever each person’s version of that freedom is, it’s a good thing to be reminding people or even just ourselves to be free.” This seems ambiguous, vapid, dewy-eyed, all very evident in a lyrical content that tries and fails to tackle too broad a theme. Alright, as a concept album it’s lacking, however I have always sought out Cut Copy for a dance, and have always forgiven them their platitudinous intellectualisation of what should really be dreamy, non-committal electronic music.

Musically, Free Your Mind is built on a classic Cut Copy framework of synth, incessant tambourine, jaunty piano and vivacious drums counterpoised by Whitford’s malcontented melodies on top of a gospel layer of echoing harmonies. In this sense at least, Cut Copy left Zonoscope behind as journeymen and have come to Free Your Mind as master craftsmen of their particular trade.

‘Let Me Show You Love’ is easy dance, instrumental interludes packed with meandering keys and disco percussion at an accessible tempo, embodying everything I love about Cut Copy.

While the execution of ‘We Are Explorers’ is not quite on point, it possesses an innocent melody akin to anthemic ‘Hearts on Fire’ off In Ghost Colours. ‘Footsteps’ is notable for its exuberant percussion and natural samples including exotic bird sounds. At one point, Whitford sings “I can’t form a line”, and I think “Don’t worry, Dan, let’s just dance”. Alexander Skarsgård (HBO’s True Blood) fans will appreciate his shirtless appearance in the “Free Your Mind” music video, and perhaps the jubilant choral performance too.

It’s easy to think of Cut Copy as always having been a little dreary, most first-time listeners do. Particularly in the case of Zonoscope, I would hazard to state that most of them are wrong. Free Your Mind is no different, putting forward a thesis that was intended to be motivational. Cut Copy do achieve this, although not in as intelligible a fashion as I would have hoped. Nevertheless, the shape of the motive comes through – in the form of a spectrum of sounds from psychedelia to synthpop to house. If you’re at all dance-inclined, this record might be as important as their previous work.

 

3/5

Download: ‘Let Me Show You Love’, ‘Footsteps’