Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Cut Copy: Free Your Mind (2013)
The transformation is complete. At this point, the band that recorded In Ghost Colours and was praised for their integration of backward dance-music elements in their indie guitar pop no longer remotely resembles a rock band. They're more like something you'd hear on a clubbing night with fellow consenting adults in 1989 or 1992, between hits by Pet Shop Boys, Madonna and -- fuck it -- Londonbeat. They're still unmistakably a modern Australian band that loves synthpop and disco, but their fearlessness separates them from, for instance, UK counterparts Hot Chip -- who are better songwriters but wouldn't dare release something this unapologetic.
Free Your Mind sheds, except for its title, the psych-rock zone-out effect of earlier Cut Copy albums, even if they claim this one was inspired by the Summer of Love. There's no question it's music about hedonism, but it looks in the right direction for hallmarks from "It's Alright" to "Rhythm Is a Dancer." Hard to say if any song strikes out full-bore like the emotionally indomitable "Take Me Out," or that any moment is so transcendent as the bridge of "Corner of the Sky," but what this album successfully does is spread out its bliss so that it's a consistent, melodic high. And never before has Dan Whitford sung a melody as beautiful as that of "Dark Corners & Mountain Tops" or produced a throwback as convincing as "Footsteps." Generally, Cut Copy present such a full-bodied joy here that it's hard to carp with anything.
Superficially, it'd be easy to dismiss this as Zonoscope Part 2, but for one thing, this has less filler and seems more focused even if the peaks are lower. The band's really expanded on their earlier ideas even if they haven't really altered their sound, per se. However, a comparison to Colours reveals an evolution so pronounced it's almost hard to believe we're still hearing the same old Whitford. Love is the mission of their hi-NRG pop, "Meet Me in a House Of..." and "Let Me Show You..." and their approach couldn't be less beholden to the whims of the outsider. The bold conceit of Free Your Mind is that if you don't already know and love the place Cut Copy's coming from, you won't get it, and they know a lot of people won't. As an exercise in nostalgia it's one thing, but as a simple expression of and response to the music one cares about most deeply, it's human and absorbing and as delightful as we could hope. Mining your influences and making something personal and genuinely sweet of them, well, that's kind of rock & roll, isn't it?