Dance music nostalgia is a dangerous concept. One minute you’re at a warehouse party blazed on acid and wondering why you can’t see primary colours anymore. The next, you’re ferrying the kids back from their first school disco while Heart FM’s Club Classics plays in the background.
For Cut Copy to hark back to electronica’s 90s heyday is understandable. They nailed twinkling synth euphoria on In Ghost Colours before indulging their percussive inclinations with 2011’s Zonoscope. By drawing their third album to a close with a 15 minute rave-athon called ‘Sun God’, Dan Whitford’s quartet left themselves stranded in the experimental ether. Having travelled so far from ‘Lights & Music’ (and even further from the dream-pop of 'Autobahn Music Box'), how could they retreat to immediacy again?
As per any mid-life crisis, the answer lay in halcyon days - when Whitford was first acquainting himself with The Orb, Orbital and 808 State. Free Your Mind is the musical equivalent of laying down £5,000 on a second-hand Harley Davidson to ferry yourself back and forth from the golf club. A few more glutinous chugs of dub and glistening outbursts of house-tinted piano don’t do much to change the fact that this is unmistakably a Cut Copy album.
Honestly, that’s no bad thing. ‘We Are Explorers’ counts as one of the best tracks the Aussies have penned to date. It’s got layer upon layer of wide-eyed bumps and squiggles that compel you to make a gurnface and generally give the impression you’re having a grand old time. Likewise, ‘Meet Me In A House Of Love’ is ludicrously infectious as it swells back and forth around a saxophone riff for six glorious minutes.
Similarly to Electric, this year’s proudly uptempo comeback from Pet Shop Boys, Free Your Mind’s finest moments are a whole lot of fun. Its title track and ‘Footsteps’ will refresh you with gleeful purpose long after the rest of the record has fallen from your memory. Sat alongside these vintage offerings however, is a sizeable amount of dross.
You could lop the last four tracks off your album playlist and only miss out on lesser incarnations of past Cut Copy tracks. ‘Take Me Higher’ passes off ‘Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat’s melancholic twinge as its own, while ‘Walking In The Sky’ is the distant, dreary cousin of ‘Strangers In The Wind’. When stacked on top of some aimless interlude tracks, you’re left with an album that’s insecure in its chirpy pop visage. Offerings like the acoustic-tinted ‘Dark Corners And Mountain Tops’ seem to have made the cut because they represent fresh thinking for Cut Copy, and that’s about it.
Ultimately, this ‘try anything once’ mindset is repeated too many times across Free Your Mind. Like most earnest attempts to reimagine the past, it’s an entertaining indulgence. One that exists to stave off the nagging question: what comes next?
6Robert Leedham's Score