In Ghost Colours
By Colin McGowan | 3 April 2008
Yeah, I know, New Order. I don’t care.
Cut Copy takes what every douchebag pseudo-dance group (I’m looking at you, Brandon Flowers) has tried to do since said post-Ian Curtis outfit excelled at it in the 80s and discovers a formula that works on both the dance floor (though I’m speculating here, as I’m currently stranded in a town where the YMCA doubles as a “club”) and headphones (I’m positive on this one, promise).
Infectious as any release this year, In Ghost Colours succeeds, not due to its originality, you’ve heard this before, but because of its timing and measured approach. This isn’t a hookfest, all soaring guitars and trying-to-be-anthemic posturing, nor is it repetitive, the same pattern playing out for seven minutes at a time. The Aussie outfit tempers one extreme with the other, reverberating guitars balancing out warm synths and, yes, a handful of gigantic hooks, hung like gaudy neon signage highlighting several songs, most notably “So Haunted” which features a raucous, distorted guitar line morphing into a veritable synth orgy.
The music is engrossing and sexually frustrated throughout; Cut Copy clearly has a knack for juggling tempos, a delicate feat despite the insistent momentum of everything. Present on this album is what some would affectionately refer to as “jams,” like the aforementioned “So Haunted” or “Lights And Music,” which radiates a hollow righteousness via dynamic twiddles and a few well-placed, angular guitar riffs. However, the more vivacious numbers are counterweighted with a number of vaguely subdued affairs, namely “Strangers In The Wind,” possibly the album’s strongest track, which employs clothes-right-out-of-the-dryer warmth, wistful vocals, and a forlorn alt-country guitar line buried deep in the mix.
Superficiality rarely sounds this tremendous, most likely due to its inherent lack of likability, and vocalist Dan Whitford is to be commended for crooning rather than sneering, employing irony and not ego. [Close call between those two, eh? – Ed.] That said, the lyrical content is nothing to spend any amount of time with (I believe he rhymes “you” with “true” on at least three separate occasions) but that’s to be expected as this is, at its core, a dance record; it’s even structured like a DJ set, one track transitioning seamlessly into the next. Though this approach does have its drawbacks, as my colleague David Goldstein has pointed out, painting a few of the tracks into a corner, it’s also kinda beneficial in that it encourages the listener to digest the album as a whole. Ultimately that’s the best method for approaching this record, as listening to it for the duration minimizes its flaws and amplifies its amiable nature, and, as I take my critic pants off for a second, it doesn’t, y’know, kill the buzz on the dance floor.
The way In Ghost Colours exploits my affection for synth pop and empty, detached vocals, I should be knocking down Dan Whitford’s door trying to get a strand of hair, but the album unfortunately loses its resonance on subsequent listens, its sheen lessening to a duller shade with each closer inspection. The few brilliant hooks still hold up, as does the intricate “Strangers In The Wind,” but the empty lyricism, off-putting retreads (there’s a thin line between familiarity and “I’ve heard this before,” and “Hearts of Fire” crosses it) and a handful of phoned-in segues suck the album down. But this is hardly an album to get sour about, gleefully enjoyable and breathing new life into a genre that’s been stagnant—or at least saturated—recently, supplying us with a fresh batch of tracks to indulge our hedonistic sides. At the very worst, Cut Copy’s new full-length will make you want to break out Power, Corruption, and Lies (1983), and at best, it gets awkward types like yours truly to shake, which is genuinely transcendent comedy. See? Everyone wins.