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.

Cut Copy [MySpace]
80 ’08 (and Heartbreak)

  • TheRunningboard7

    AGREED. Quite a bit.

  • dyfl

    See, I’ll be honest with you, I feel like this album SOUNDS perfect but there’s not a single song or hook on it that has stuck with me. I’ve only listened to it a couple times, granted, but it doesn’t even take a full listen for a New Order or Depeche Mode record to stick in the brain, y’know? I’m filing them under “could be getting somewhere,” but this record doesn’t really seal the deal for me.

  • Reidicus

    Agreed, 100%. And while it’s naturally subjective, I disagree on the “sticking with-ness.” I haven’t listened to this record in weeks, but in just seeing this item, my head started going “Lights and musiiiiic / are on my miiiind / (synth chords)”

  • joshuaryan

    I agree with your synopsis of this record completely. The tracks play off as well crafted and well arranged pop songs.

    Also, I think the produciton of Tim Goldsworthy (who could do little wrong in my book this year) is worth mentioning and applauding.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with your point, but to say that you can hear Erasure “playing off one another” is to say you can hear Vince Clarke playing off Vince Clarke.

  • MayhemintheHood

    Wait…that’s not a Rocky IV montage scene.

  • Lucas Jensen

    @kabosh: Vince Clarke playing off Andy Bell’s vocals. Vocals are an instrument, too.

  • Lucas Jensen

    @dyfl: I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. I know every song on this record like the back of my hand, and I felt like I knew them pretty much right away.

  • Lucas Jensen

    @joshuaryan: Yeah, I really should have mentioned Goldsworthy here. With this and Hercules & Love Affair (he did that, right?) he was firing on all cylinders.

  • Anonymous

    @dyfl: yeah, i concur. this record just didn’t do it for me. like i heard a song at a bar the other night and it sounded great in that context, but otherwise the whole thing (especially the lackluster singing) really left me blah.

  • Tauwan

    I do enjoy this album. It’s got some killer tracks (Lights and Music, Far Away, Out the on the Ice). I just wish it didn’t lose its momentum towards the middle (a common trend for many an album this year IMO). Otherwise it would have been on my list of fave albums of the year as well.

  • G3K

    Your #62 is my #1.

  • Lucas Jensen

    @G3K: It’s my #1, too, just Idolator’s #62. Haha.