Cut Copy and the art of jam-making
As anyone who's been to a major festival in the last year knows, Cut Copy is a scene stealer. The Australian dance-rock quartet isn't quite a main-stage headliner yet, but wherever they're playing is probably where the crowd is having the most fun. Over three albums of increasingly ambitious disco that draws equally from post-punk, house and the stoner dreaminess of ELO, these four lanky, arguably dorky dudes keep all the live energy of drums and guitars with all the sonic potential and hands-up joy of the recent electronica wave.
At the Palladium Wednesday night, for all their craft and synth-wrangling skill, Cut Copy figured out something about today's young audiences that DJ's know intuitively and that most bands never realize -- that people just want jams. All the time. No slow-dance interlude two-thirds through a set, no deep-album excursions and no talking. Just jams. And that's why they might be one of the best live bands going today.
Of the band's 14 songs Wednesday night, literally every single one had some massive hook and instantly distinguishing sonic quality. From the goofball dial tone bloop of "Saturdays" to the synthetic marimba of "Blink and You'll Miss a Revolution" to the shoe-gazey guitar groans of "So Haunted," Cut Copy knows that the first job of making good club music is to kick up your blood pressure the second you realize what song it is, and that's done by crafting really standout sounds.
With that taken care of, they're free to make the most of their second great talent -- high-octane earnestness. There is no darkness to Cut Copy, no counterbalance of violence or mystery or sadness. They have one setting, a kind of highest-common-denominator joy that makes singles like 2008's inescapable "Hearts on Fire" and this year's "Need You Now" even more cynic-proof -- they're cynic inverting.
Their influences are so impeccable that they can get away with pure cornball lyrics that mean little in themselves but function beautifully as a means to the song's end (take "Lights and Music" -- "Lights and music are on my mind, be my baby one more time".) Even their new sci-fi instincts, such as on "Pharoahs and Pyramids" from this year's "Zonoscope," comes from a real love of '70s prog iconography, and lord knows that genre isn't known for self-awareness. Singer Dan Whitford spends most of the set playing unreserved crowd maestro, lifting hands at big moments and jerking his tall frame around at the big drum breaks. Few bands make meaning it look as good.
And in a time in which kids make zero distinction between the value systems of indie and pop and electronic music, the best bands are going to be the ones to take the most from all those impulses. Cut Copy does that better than almost anyone.
-- August Brown
Photo: Cut Copy. Credit: Timothy Saccenti