No. 62: Cut Copy, “In Ghost Colours”
As a fan of New Order, Depeche Mode, and synth pop in general, I’m fairly certain that Cut Copy whipped up this album in a lab for the sole purpose of pleasing me. But beyond being a perfect exemplar of ringing, clear-eyed ’80s electro-pop, In Ghost Colours manages to distinguish itself from so many recent synth revivalists by doing what they have failed to do: deliver top-notch songs.
In the era of Sound Replacer and ProTools, it’s easy to lay down the um-chuh beats and slap the requisite synth flourishes on top with a knowing wink and call it a day. However, making music like this sound good outside of a dance context is hard work. It requires attention to detail and real pop songcraft. New Order, perhaps Cut Copy’s closest forebear, recorded onto tape in an era of musical formalism; if you wanted a track to be there you actually had to record it. Furthermore, New Order, Depeche Mode, and Erasure are all still bands in the end, meaning that despite their electronic trappings you can hear musicians actually playing off one another.
Cut Copy succeeds in much the same way. They have guitars, they have live drums, and they have Peter Hook-y bass solos. They even have some questionable singing and average lyrics! In Ghost Colours may have been made on a laptop (I’m not sure, honestly), but it doesn’t sound like it was. It’s a buoyant, relaxed effort, never played for cheap, ironic laffs. It’s pop music that’s not afraid of itself. And it kills ‘em on the dance floor.