It feels like Cut Copy’s day in the sun is over.
Label: Virgin EMI
Released: 22nd September 2017
There was a time when Cut Copy ruled the land. After a stuttered start with ‘Bright Like Neon Love’ showed promise, 2008’s ‘In Ghost Colours’ revealed them for the pop juggernauts they truly were.
No late-00s leather jacket and Breton shirt disco was complete without arms-aloft bangers like ‘Hearts On Fire’ and ‘Lights & Music’. 2011’s ‘Zonoscope’ saw them drop the anthems in favour of something more; emboldened by the success of ‘In Ghost Colours’ and ready to tackle something new. It was a dizzyingly euphoric experiment for the Aussie band that paid off in spades.
But then something happened. The magic died. ‘Free Your Mind’’s attempt to recapture the spirit of Madchester fell totally flat. It felt insecure, like the host of a bad party constantly asking if you’re having fun yet.
While their latest endeavour, ‘Haiku From Zero’, sees them returning to the style of dance anthems that made their name, it feels like Cut Copy’s day in the sun is over. It’s by no means as resolutely dull as ‘Free Your Mind’, but it just feels like they have nothing really left to say.
It doesn’t help that much of the album feels like a patchwork of other people’s songs. Opening track ‘Standing In The Middle Of The Field’ has a breakdown so similar to Caribou’s ‘Odessa’ that it can’t just be a coincidence. Similarly ‘Black Rainbows’ features a xylophone part that is practically torn out of Paramore’s ‘Hard Times’.
At times, it’s almost weird to think that this is the same Dan Whitford whose voice was the epitome of nonchalant cool. The “Hey!” that punctuates the chorus of ‘Black Rainbows’ feels utterly half-arsed. The “Hey!” is not a thing you half-arse. It’s the thing that gets a crowd pumped up, that makes you want to punch the air even on a crowded bus. This is a “Hey!” that almost makes you cringe.
When ‘Haiku From Zero’ really tries, though, it’s great. Lead single ‘Airborne’ is everything you want from an ‘In Ghost Colours’-era single, right down to the Avalanches-esque oddities. It’s fun, it’s colourful and delightfully light on its feet. ‘Counting Down’ has toe-tapper written all over it, with that shimmering disco guitar riff and even a quick bongo solo.
Even ‘Standing In The Middle Of The Field’, in spite of that Caribou moment, takes you up among the clouds to a blissful dance floor in the sky with zen-like percussion and beautifully breezy synths.
There’s just no getting over that the rest of the album feels so disposable. It’s fun while it lasts, sure, but the minute closing track ‘Tied To The Weather’ ends, it’s difficult to think of any true standouts; it’s difficult to remember what half of them even sound like.
‘In Ghost Colours’ and ‘Zonoscope’ had tracks that burrowed so deep into your psyche that, even almost ten years later, they can trigger something that makes you race for the nearest dance floor. In ‘Haiku From Zero’, there’s nothing like that. Just a Happy Meal of pop where you’d much rather be dining out on the weird and exciting fare of old Cut Copy. Chris Taylor