Arriving like a brightly coloured manifesto for a new age cult, Cut Copy‘s fourth album Free Your Mind is a hypnotic time-capsule of period dance. Inspired by both the hippy movement of the Sixties and the UK club scene of the early Nineties, it diverges from their usual Eighties synth-pop sheen, placing a heavy slant on the hedonistic idealism of the past, to craft a paean to peace, love and pill-fuelled teeth grinding.
Brimming with instantly gratifying beats, hook-laden psychedelia, thudding bass-lines and darting syth stabs, Free Your Mind is in many respects the answer to the questions posed on 2011′s scattergun Zonoscope. That was a record which had the unenviable task of following-up In Ghost Colours, and in many respects the pressure to perform found it lacking immediacy or purpose, leaving Cut Copy to the sound like a band spinning their wheels.
To remedy this, they’ve returned to a far more direct approach which for the most part, seems convincing. From the foot-stomping bongo breakdowns of “We Are Explorers” and the astral synths of “In Memory Capsule” to the titular “Free Your Mind” with it’s nods to 808 State and pseudo-aspirational lyrics about how, “You’ve got to reach the sky if you want your life to shine”. These new songs – now swathed in driving percussion and shimmering pianos – bring a clarity to their sound that in places such as on anthemic closer “Walking In The Sky”, rivals their best work. The latter track, a warm sonic blanket, replete with tambourines, handclaps and choral harmonies, which marks the album’s ultimate comedown/ascension.
That said, for those of us who remember with impassioned fondness, the first time we heard Bright Like Neon Love or the peerless joy of In Ghost Colours, this album presents itself with an odd mixture of both validation and nagging disappointment. In filtering their songs into bursts of euphoric dance, replete with bass wobbles and acid-house squeaks, they have may have found a new direction, but in doing so they’ve traded nuance for bombast. If there are problems here, it’s that too often Free Your Mind is trying to outrun its hollow core.
So enraptured with their pastiche of dance euphoria, that at times it feels like the band have forgotten their greatest strength was always in combining the facile extremes of electro-pop with a modicum of indie substance. So as the album progresses, tracks such as “Let Me Show You Love”, “Dark Corners And Mountain Tops” or “Footsteps” become indistinguishable from one another and it slowly becomes harder to escape the feeling that you could just be listening to a Back To The Old School rave compilation.
Ultimately, it’s a hypnotic and intermittently enjoyable experience, which whilst a little overextended and at times as shallow as the music it pastiches, marks a convincing enough return for Cut Copy. But with plenty of other bands emerging this year – such as Jagwar Ma and Worlds End Press – who cover the same ground but with far more conviction and acuity, it might be wise to take pause before drinking this Kool-Aid.