Album Review: Cut Copy – Free Your Mind

The bridging of indie and dance is not uncommon, but does anyone actually achieve full acceptance in both communities? LCD Soundsystem could get a tent to dance, but were those crowds ever truly satisfied, or were they wishing the festival had booked Crookers instead? Crystal Castles has had success in both scenes, but when they play HARD or Ultra, aren’t they the indie dance group at the rave? Cut Copy also likes dipping their feet in both pools, and indeed last weekend they played on the main stage at HARD Day of the Dead, wedged neatly between Destructo and Eric Prydz. Theirs was a 6:00 p.m. set on a day when the plush slots went to Calvin Harris, Pretty Lights, and DeadMau5, sending a message that Cut Copy is welcome, but not in terms of their real-world popularity, just in terms of their dance scene acceptance.

Cut Copy’s indie acceptance may also be waning, as the release of Free Your Mind has gone in polar directions in an attempt to engage listeners with very 2013 marketing strategies that are about as transparent and innovative as a glass of water. First, they premiered the expertly crafted, krauty clapper “Let Me Show You Love” (which has the best Dave Gahan vocal melody that Depeche Mode never wrote) at the buzziest location possible: Pitchfork Music Festival. And no, not by performing the song; rather, they pressed 120 vinyl singles for distribution at the festival, sure that they would find their way to the right hands, with a general 2:1 ratio assumed for listeners to music writers at said event. That move read like a cry for attention, but not so much as making six billboards at random global locations that fans needed to seek out to hear the album’s title track. The presumption of such a ploy is baffling, mostly because it is hard to imagine anyone driving more than 10 minutes to hear a song by any artist, much less Cut Copy, much less to the wasteland of the California desert between L.A. and Palm Springs. For comparison, remember when the Boards of Canada had a remote listening party for their first album in forever? Video showed a spare gathering at most. Unsurprisingly in this instance, someone just found the song through Cut Copy’s website, leaked it, and the billboards were never really discussed again.

Of course, how Cut Copy promoted the album doesn’t really affect what is on Free Your Mind, but artists are deluding themselves if they don’t think that everything affects how their music is received or enjoyed. This could range from their influences, to how my parents raised me, to the weather, to past drug experiences, to my high school girlfriend. All these factors come into play when hearing the album’s title track, but whatever the literal “freeing of my mind” causes me to think, the truth is that the song’s gravitational pull in its subtleties (the bongo taps, the soulful backing vocal samples, the texture of rocket jets that forms the canvas on which the song is painted) overrules any adverse reaction to the hippie lyrics. Plus, the song’s second chorus reveal is a show-stopping moment of the type that Cut Copy has made a career on, the live interpretation easily imaginable.

Free Your Mind makes friends with the listener by using three straight bangers to kick off the album: The title track is backed up by “We Are Explorers” and “Let Me Show You Love”, coincidentally the same three singles that kicked off the album’s presentation to the world. And, as the album progresses, it doesn’t cease in providing potential singles, all with hooks that latch with ease, all with a similar aesthetic and production flair to the title track. “Footsteps” establishes backing vocals and percussion sounds as strings throughout the album, the melody recalling Pet Shop Boys strongly enough to make the listener check the liner notes to see if Tennant and Lowe weren’t in on the writing.

The funny thing is, though the tracklist looks like a normal-length album, in the end there are only nine real songs to take in, and they are easily unified by the musical choices Cut Copy has made. The simultaneously best and worst move here is the closer “Walking In The Sky”, Cut Copy’s attempt at a ballad, complete with handclaps, the simplest melody imaginable, the most basic of messages (aka YOLO = Free Your Mind), and guns aimed directly at the back of the arena — an arena filled with hand-holding indie kids and ravers who, in the mind of Cut Copy, really just want to get their lighters out and hear an Oasis song at the end of the day. And, shit, maybe they’re right, because as spelled-out as the song is, as much as it seems repellant of good taste, Oasis does have some jams, and the song’s charms win out over any cynicism or scene posturing. Or, at least they should.

With Free Your Mind, Cut Copy has gone major label in America, still affiliated with their beloved Modular back home, but joining the boutique wing of Loma Vista, which is a part of Sony or Universal. I’d tell you which, but it is set up to be non-transparent. The Loma Vista website makes absolutely no mention of major label affiliation, and when looking at the acts associated (a number of which get their main support from the indie scene), the deception feels about as contrived as a billboard in the desert. Music doesn’t need these kind of icky subtexts, especially music as open-hearted, brutally unhip, and purely enjoyable as Cut Copy has become. Dance tent, main stage, club, arena: The songs will connect anywhere, and when they tour the shit out of this album in 2014, only a fool would bet against this set of songs connecting everywhere.

Essential Tracks: “Walking In The Sky”, “Free Your Mind”, and “We Are Explorers”


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