Review Summary: A vibrant amalgam that will no doubt prove as timeless as pop music itself, it not only makes it okay to dance, it makes it fucking righteous.
The indie scene’s love affair with dance music has always been an iffy proposition – from the two-step shuffle commonly associated with scenesters at concerts to the fairly awkward relationship many fans have with “cool” (read: hip, Pitchfork-approved, etc.) dance-rock, it’s always been difficult to correspond “indie” to “dance” or vice versa. With the recent upswing in dance-oriented groups and accompanying critically-acclaimed albums like Hot Chip, Justice, and LCD Soundsystem, it’s become okay, nay, necessary for fans formerly just fine with a four-piece rock band to kick out the DJ sets and neon shirts and actually move
those Doc Martens.
The resulting over-saturation of electro-pop, techno-lite music has become impossible to ignore and even harder to tolerate, and so it’s refreshing to hear a record like Australian group Cut Copy’s sophomore effort In Ghost Colours, an album so unabashedly fun and free of postmodern irony that it’s an almost unreasonably good time. A heady blend of ‘80s-tinged synth pop, whirling atmospheric electronica, and frothy, carefree pop, it’s music that holds itself above no one and caters to everyone. And as you can guess, it’s pretty damn catchy too.
It’s all there on opener “Feel The Love,” where a squelching burst of keyboards attached to a robust drum beat feeds into a guitar strumming along in major-key bliss while synths soar overhead, the bass pumps out a slinky disco groove and vocalist Dan Whitford’s unassuming tenor holds it all together. Sounds like a lot? It is, and it’s true of In Ghost Colours in general. The record is a massive pastiche of musical styles, a neon-bright watercolor of ‘80s new wave, rave-ready dance, and sunny pop melodies that keep everything nicely packed together into four-minute slices of old and new.
Producer Tim Goldworthy of DFA deserves much of the credit. He works seemingly effortless magic here, from the moody house jam of “Lights and Music” to the psychedelic space rock of “So Haunted” to the trippy, slow-jam mega-hit (in Australia, at least) “Hearts On Fire,” infusing the band’s disparate styles into a vigorous whole. Acoustic guitar and studio drums mesh unobtrusively with synthesizers and all manner of stereo effects, a gleaming array of instruments that rise and fall with Whitford’s vocals but never overwhelm or clash. The sequencing is particularly well thought-out, separating many of the full tracks with one-minute mood pieces that enhance rather than detract from the record’s flow and make fifteen tracks enjoyable rather than painfully long.
Perhaps the album’s strongest point is its ability to take and borrow from dozens of influences, yet never come off as overly derivative or mere hacks, as so many of their scene peers have. “Far Away” is a sinfully catchy new wave piece that sounds like it was pulled out of a time machine from 1985, yet the splashes of live drumming, Whitford’s not-too-little, not-too-much vocals and clattering synth breakdown are entirely ‘00s. “So Haunted” calls to mind a more optimistic Interpol, one with a penchant for suddenly uprooting their droning guitar for a brighter, keyboard-friendly chorus.
Even better, In Ghost Colours is full of genuine songs – forget dance-rock bands that catapult onto the scene with one smash hit and an album of filler. The sexy guitar pulse and spiraling chorus of “Nobody Lost, Nobody Found;” the out-of-left-field country-rock gem “Strangers In The Wind;” the cheerfully anthemic “Unforgettable Season;” this is a record that leaves a lasting impression and an overwhelming desire to go through it again, as a whole.
It’s rare to find a collection of songs like In Ghost Colours, particularly in a genre and era where it’s practically impossible to find something that hasn’t been done before. Cut Copy are not revolutionaries of the dance-rock world, and the last thing In Ghost Colours has done is create something new and wholly original. Rather, it’s an eclectic effort that is an excellent example of painstakingly refined craftsmanship; a purely pop album meticulously put together for maximum summer enjoyment, yet one that loses nothing in immediacy or creativity. A vibrant amalgam that will no doubt prove as timeless as pop music itself, it not only makes it okay to dance, it makes it ***ing righteous.