Sunday, November 24, 2013

Album Review: Cut Copy – Free Your Mind (2013)

When I reviewed Cut Copy’s last album and included it on my Albums of 2011 list, I made the point that Cut Copy was seemingly immune to any backlash from critics and fans alike for its blatant um, copyist approach to synthpop and wider electronic forms.

Zonoscope was the Melbourne band’s third New Order-aping album in succession, and Cut Copy’s appeal was starting to wear a little thin. I mean, I liked Zonoscope enough to include it as one of my most played albums of that year, sure, but there were a number of small things about the band’s music that had started to become a little annoying. Nobody else, it seemed, had noticed, and Cut Copy continued to attract very positive reviews.
Fast forward to November 2013, and the release of album number four, Free Your Mind ... well, it looks like things may have taken a slight turn for the worse, and even the formerly supportive Pitchfork site was a bit underwhelmed by the band’s latest offering, giving it – at best – a mediocre review. Ditto, The Guardian’s music pages, which gave the album a positively drab two stars (out of five).

I downloaded the new album regardless. I enjoyed the band’s first two albums so much (and clearly rated Zonoscope at the time), I wanted to give the Aussie electro-poppers the benefit of any doubt. I really shouldn’t have bothered.

The good news is that Cut Copy has actually moved on slightly from its default retro mid-Eighties synthpop starting point. The bad news is the band only made it as far as 1988 or 1989, and Free Your Mind is little more than a badly pieced together homage to flowery second wave “summer of love” bands like Primal Scream and Stone Roses.

Now, there’s not much wrong with either of those bands – or indeed, that period – but Cut Copy is starting to come across as an A-grade imposter, and the music on Free Your Mind is barely a pale imitation of the best music from that era. In the hands of Cut Copy, what once was universally known and loved as “baggy”, now resembles something similarly shapeless ... something saggy, even.

And who wants to relive that whole trippy dippy hippy thing a third time anyway?

And so we’re left with a bunch of try-hard tunes, with lazy and clichéd lyrics, and removed from its New Order context, I now realise it was singer Dan Whitford's weedy vocal that annoyed me all along on Zonoscope ... something I hadn’t quite been able to put my finger on previously.

Too derivative, too cheesy, and with bugger all originality poking through the psychedelic haze, I think it’s safe to say Cut Copy and I are now officially over.

Highlights: not much ... maybe this, at a stretch:

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