In a world where revivalism comes and goes, it’s impressive that Cut Copy’s nostalgia glazed electro-pop managed to survive and even strive for almost a decade. It feels as if it was ages ago when Cut Copy released their 2004 debut Bright Like Neon Love, and while that particular album may not been much more than a set of neon-lit patches of different dance-styles – doing no more than its title and the band’s name justice, their long-awaited 2008 follow up In Ghost Colours successfully bridged the gap between electronic and rock music, in a way that the world hasn’t heard since New Order’s prime. Their ingenious stadium-sized dance-rock has since then stirred a legion of copy cats, while they themselves kept on the move, reinventing end evolving their sound even further. 2011’s Zonoscope wasn’t necessarily their best, but the one that holds-up the most. Tracks like “Need You Now” and “Sun God” became over time a sure proof of why they’re considered as one of the most prominent dance/rock hybrids of the last decade. And the fact that Andrew Wheatherall remixed “Sun God” is in retrospect little surprising; somewhere along the way Cut Copy left their synth-pop roots and turned into a band of swirling psychedelic acid-pop, perhaps more in common with Screamadelica-era Primal Scream than New Order.
And Free Your Mind essentially continues where “Sun God” left off. Cut Copy has taken their hedonistic, care-free pop to meet a new psychedelic dawn. At the same time, Free Your Mind serves as their most easily digestible creation, more accessible and hands-in-the-air approved than any of their former, and on where nearly every track is a highlight. Previously heard teasers, like the six minute Detroit techno inclined “Let Me Show You Love”, the Scream-pastiche of “Free Your Mind” and the rave-pop of “We Are Explorers”, kicks off the album in a bang, but as the album proceeds, it doesn’t stop in providing possible singles. But don’t be fooled by the lengthy track list, there isn’t 14 songs on here; instead 5 out of the 14 tracks are no more than unnecessary fillers that do absolutely nothing to highlight the mood or bridge over to anything really. What you get in reality is nine proper songs, where every single one of them could be deemed as good to great. The two mid-tempo tracks, “Dark Corners And Mountain Tops” and “Walking In the Sky” are fundamentally the only ones that somewhat retains the rock façade of their two previous albums, otherwise the album is a continuous dance frenzy of almost anthemic proportions. But that is not to say that all is well in the house of love. The lack of the dynamism and range that is to be found in its predecessors, basically serves as my biggest concern with Free Your Mind. The eclectic approach of mixing rock and dance that made In Ghost Colours and Zoonoscope such a unexpected and relatively varied listen is nowhere to be found. Free Your Mind keeps pounding on with one banger after a banger, almost sounding like a Greatest Hits collection. And while that’s fine for giving loads of fuel to their already brilliant live shows, it doesn’t carry the necessary nuances that I’m usually looking for in a proper album format. Maybe it’s just plain out silly to critique an album for having too many climaxes, but at least for me the joy of an album is the eclectic mix of immediate showstoppers and those that need time to fully form in the mind.
Then again, the unremitting pounding of earwormy hooks and sensory overload does serve the purpose of hiding Dan Whitford’s, even for him, unusually subpar lyrics. Trivialities like “You gotta live your life today / Tomorrow is a world away” and “…the rain comes / through the streets of love/ so give your heartbreaks and feelings up” are much easier to digest when they are buried under layers of euphoric dance grooves. But those who’ve followed Cut Copy’s long-lasting career, knows that their music has never concealed any major message, at least not more than; get free or try dancing your socks off. More often than not, their titles do the job of getting their points across; “Feel the Love”, “Hearts On Fire”, “Lights & Music” and now; “Free Your Mind”, “Take Me Higher” and the track that foremost encapsulates everything about the band; the Manchester swayed rush of “Meet Me In a House of Love”. It’s almost hard to believe they haven’t already made this track. It’s the longest on the album but serves as the synopsis, not just of Free Your Mind, but of their entire discography. And there is more where that came from; “Footsteps”, “Let Me Show You Love”, the title track and “In Memory Capsule” manage to obtain almost the same high level of euphoria, and when they are this additive and joyous it’s more than easy to see past Whitford’s superficial, or even flat out silly lyrics.
Even though there’s much noise of Free Your Mind being a sort of contemporary dance fueled version of Screamadelica that just a small fraction of the whole story. Yes, the continuous plea from Dan Whitford to “shine on” and “free Your mind” lies within the boundaries of typical Gillespie librettos, but musically there is only two, at most three tracks that lends from Scream’s aesthetics (one obvious one being the chorus of the title track and the second being “Take Me Higher”). Instead we get a lot of references to the different dance music aesthetics of the late 80’s/early 90’s in general. There’s “Let Me Show You Love” essentially lending its title, vocals and its groove from K-Klass 1993’s acid-house stomper. “Footsteps” sounds like 808 State meets Nomad’s “Devotion”. The hands-in-the-air synth riff of “In Memory Capsule” is akin to a numerous early Balearic trance tracks and there are plenty more of these long forgotten dance references to be found for those with a lot of time on their hands.
In the end, this album manages to validate and even highlight everything I love about Cut Copy, while at the same time being a bit disappointing. By having nearly all tracks firing lazer-sharp dance grooves, they’ve traded the nuances of their early album for a constant rush of pill poppin’ adrenaline. And while all hooks are rightfully at place to make sure you get into the third summer of love party they so desperately (but at the same time, admirably) trying to create, it’s clear that the overall songwriting on Free Your Mind lacks the vigor of their former albums. Still, to end on a positive note – and to further emphasis that my feelings towards this record is as schizophrenic as this review, all Free Your Mind’s shortcomings is easy to turn a blind eye to, because in the end, all that you’re left with is a an album of chastely uninhibited guilty pleasures.
- AOTW: Cut Copy – Free Your Mind (avoidingsilence.com)
- ALBUM REVIEW: Cut Copy – Free Your Mind (okwest.wordpress.com)
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- God Is In The TV: Cut Copy – Free Your Mind (Modular Recordings) (moonblogsfromsyb.wordpress.com)
- Album Review: Cut Copy- Free Your Mind (rawdenimmag.com)
- Album Of The Week: Cut Copy Free Your Mind (stereogum.com)
- Cut Copy: Free Your Mind (Review) (popmatters.com)
- Cut Copy – Free Your Mind (Fort Romeau remix) (ifoundmusic.com)