Review Summary: Yo quiero....bailar!
That atrocious album art is all you really need to divine the hidden meaning behind Cut Copy’s fourth record, the transparently titled Free Your Mind
. An MS Paint concoction lifted from your nearest boardwalk store, on the rack right next to the scented candles and bongs engraved with Jamaican colors, it’s an invocation and a color scheme designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s almost funny in a winking sort of way, but one listen to Free Your Mind
and it’s apparent that there’s no joke being played here: there is no hidden meaning. Cut Copy are nothing if not earnest, and Free Your Mind
– in its intentions, its influences, its papier-mâché message – is as forthright as possible, almost painfully so even for a Cut Copy record. Hell, when that drum line begins rattling off a solo in “We Are Explorers,” you can practically see the band in front of you, exhorting the audience into it, bounce to your right, to your left, face paint starting to drip, a day-glo kum-ba-yah moment if there ever was one. It’s almost a little embarrassing, really. All the trite empowerment bullshit
and the vague fuzzys Dan Whitford entreats you with, though, aren't so hard to overcome when you realize what you actually have here is a record that is so immaculately crafted and so full of unrestrained joy that it makes putting the word “guilty” in front of “pleasure” a criminal cop-out. Simply put, this is a record that bumps
The band’s tapping of Madchester-era acid house and psychedelic touchstones running from 1969 to the early ‘90s fits in nicely with the band’s electro-pop aesthetic, so much so that it’s hard to imagine why Cut Copy haven’t already made this album. Not that they haven’t taken some detours down this way before, but Free Your Mind
takes those influences and blows them up in a tie-dye confetti explosion of loops and reverb and E’d-out BPMs and buoyant bass lines and ohmygodherecomesthattitanicchorusAGAIN. It’s a bit of a sensory overload, and while it’s an overwhelming initial listen – at fourteen tracks, most of them crossing the five minute mark, that’s to be expected – repetition reveals an ebb and a flow to the tracks that makes Free Your Mind
a quintessentially Cut Copy album. The album’s interludes split things up into more manageable sections, with clearly delineated beginnings, climaxes, and comedowns, a structure that works well with the breathless club bangers that are the bread and butter here. The band’s live work on the EDM circuit has clearly been an influence; songs like the post-midnight, sex-crazed lurch of “Let Me Show You Love” and major-key Manchester callbacks like the title track perfect the push-and-pull crowd dynamic that “Hearts on Fire” demonstrated flawlessly years ago. It’s a testament to the band’s careful, brick-by-brick songwriting that, where lesser dance acts may have been hijacked by the number of influences on display, Cut Copy never seem to lose an identity that is so clearly their own.
As meticulous as things appear on a macro level, it’s rarely apparent in the songs themselves, which swerve from rave-influenced breakdowns to old school house motifs to archetypal pop-rock, yet always manage to just avoid becoming untethered from any sense of purpose or melody. There’s a driving beat that imbues every song with the purpose of a jackhammer, grounding Cut Copy’s production flourishes and the veritable wall of sound decorating each track with a tenacity and a fundamental firmness. It’s a trip that takes you higher and higher, dotted with staticky interludes and spoken-word transmissions that serve as only a brief respite until the groove kicks back in, and don’t you worry about Cut Copy’s ability to maintain that groove: whether it’s on the more down-tempo, impossibly bright classic electro of “Dark Corners & Mountain Tops,” or the walloping bass line propelling the effervescent “Footsteps,” Free Your Mind
rarely lets off the gas. Nothing encapsulates that better than the percolating rush of “Meet Me In a House of Love,” a compelling miasma of anthemic house and druggy moving bodies. It’s the kind of track Cut Copy were born to make, a psychedelic trip back to the Hacienda that threatens to spiral into nothingness before ricocheting back into that beautiful chorus, leaving you grinning and more than a little woozy, but damn if you’re not ready for more.
It’s a song of peaks and valleys, and Free Your Mind
as a whole is a record that matches that almost religious experience of being at that lucid club show that connects instead of merely entertains, where an artist is genuinely interested in meeting the audience halfway. For an album as swollen as Free Your Mind
, nailing that intimate vibe is perhaps its most impressive accomplishment. It enables one to see past Whitford’s admittedly one-dimensional lyrical tacks (perhaps something else appropriated from the rave festivals Cut Copy have been frequenting), and easier to forgive a song as annoyingly banal as “Walking In The Sky.” That song is an easy symbol of everything ostensibly wrong with Free Your Mind
– drenched in platitudes, a hackneyed conclusion that strives for universal wisdom and finds itself mired in U2-esque pontificating instead. But that chorus will ingrain itself into your brain, whether you want it to or not, and on the third listen or so, it becomes downright necessary, the handclaps practically begging you to sing along, something that just feels right after the chemical rollercoaster preceding it. Cut Copy have never been a band that lent itself to heavy thinking, and Free Your Mind
fully embraces that premise in losing itself in the beat, the melody, the tension and, finally, that sweet release. Remarkably devoid of pretensions, Free Your Mind
is a dance record boiled down to its most essential, body-shaking elements, and the purest distillation of Cut Copy’s music and their ethos yet.