Thursday, January 15th, 2009
Review of Cut Off Your Hands' You And I
Brad FafejtaLast Summer I started getting hit up via IM by someone – associate, friend, fan, I don’t know – eagerly extolling the virtues of one New Zealand outfit named Cut Off Your Hands. Now getting ambushed out of the blue like that isn’t really the way to endear yourself – or whomever you’re promoting – to me, but I was feeling magnanimous and went and gave their MySpace a listen. And wasn’t impressed. It sounded like the sort of hepped up, jerk-and-stab New Wave/post-punk that seemed inescapable a couple years ago and now just seemed dated. I told anonymous PR dude it wasn’t turning the crank, he said he understood but also mentioned that the tracks I’d heard were demos, and that the band were working on the proper album with producer Bernard Butler… so yeah, that got my attention and I filed it away for future reference.
That future turned out to be late last month, when a copy of the finished product – You And I, in stores on Tuesday – showed up, and out of my deep respect for Butler and his work, I gave it a spin. And another. And another. To my surprise, I found if not addictive then quite enjoyable – even though the observations I’d made some months previous were still correct, I didn’t mind so much. In fact, the fact that they were mining a sound that was no longer so fashionable was part of the appeal – they sounded less like an outfit chasing a trend than one simply doing what they do. After all, before it was done to death it sounded pretty good, didn’t it? And Butler’s touch has also helped, buffing out some but not all of the edges and giving it just the right amount of sheen. Judging from the string of successes he’s had lately, the man has become a master of pop conciseness and brevity, ironic considering how grandiose and sprawling his vision was in his Suede days.
While it’s the uptempo songs that make the most immediate impression – Nick Johnston’s strained vocals and the band’s taut, musical gallop rather punch you in the face with danceable hooks – it’s the slower moments, where things retreat to an austere croon, that stood out for me. Not because they’re the best songs, but because they speak to a musical vision broader than the variations on a single theme that they’re currently best at. It’s easy to be dismissive of them – goodness knows I was – but I find I’m quite liking them regardless, and think they’ve got some significant upside above and beyond what they’ve already shown. And even if I’m wrong, they’re still turning out some catchy party pop songs and that’s alright with me as well.
The band are going to be on this continent and conducting a west coast tour in February supporting Ra Ra Riot, and more dates are forthcoming. And for some reason, they’ve cut three videos for one single and also one for the title track of the album, which does not appear on the album.
MP3: Cut Off Your Hands – “Turn Cold”
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Expectations” (version 1)
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Expectations” (version 2)
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Expectations” (version 3)
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Oh Girl”
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “You And I”
MySpace: Cut Off Your Hands
Howling Bells have released a new and rather awful video from their sophomore album Radio Wars, which had been set for a February 9 release, but which I’m thinking is now unlikely. It’s almost still certainly going to be a late Winter/Spring release, but probably not quite so soon.
Oasis have turned their “let’s have buskers play songs from our new album” PR stunt in New York City last Fall into a little documentary. This took place just after the assault on Noel Gallagher in Toronto, hence his conspicuous absence from the proceedings.
The Quietus reports that British Sea Power’s next album will be a soundtrack for the 1934 documentary Man Of Aran and consist of new and reworked old material. It is due out in the Spring. It will probably be odd.
Pitchfork has details on the next stage in EMI’s neverending Radiohead back catalog exploitation campaign. It includes releasing all their past singles on
7″ 12″ vinyl and putting out deluxe CD/DVD editions of their first three albums, each of which will include the period-correct b-sides and promo clips. I’d be lying if I said that the idea of getting those b-sides in CD-quality wasn’t a tempting one, but the whole thing is just a bit too unsavory for my tastes. The CDs are out March 24, the 7″s 12″s on April 21.
Peter Bjorn & John will release Living Thing on March 30.
eye has posted the results of their annual music critics poll, and going over the results, I’m wondering why I even bothered participating. Exactly one of my picks in any category made the final tallies.
Likewise, my suggestion for the CBC Radio 2 “Playlist For Obama” – Destroyer’s “My Favourite Year” – also doesn’t appear to have made the cut. My original suggestion was actually anything by Godspeed You! Black Emperor but it was decided that a 20-minute instrumental was probably too long to use. More like too AWESOME.