Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cut Off Your Hands album review

Cut Off Your Hands
You & I
(French Kiss)

New Zealand has a pretty spotty track record here of successful pop/rock music exports (Neil & Tim Finn of Crowded House/Split Enz, OMC, Flight of the Conchords). If there’s any justice, that will change with You & I by Cut Off Your Hands (yes, it’s an unfortunate moniker, but 50+ years into the rock era, all of the good ones have been taken).

Ranging from the breezy, early ‘80s sounds of The Smiths and Edwyn Collins’ Orange Juice (“Still Fond”) to the Buzzcocks and U2 (“Closed Eyes”), the young Kiwi quartet makes a thoroughly enjoyable first impression. Former London Suede guitarist Bernard Butler (Duffy, Black Kids) handled the bulk of the production duties, with an assist from Stephen Street (Morrissey, Blur, Kaiser Chiefs).

Butler’s Phil Spector/Wall of Sound-styled touches on adrenaline-fueled opener “Happy as Can Be” are masterful. Then there’s “Oh Girl” and “Turn Cold,” where frontman Nick Johnston’s lovelorn lyrics - he breathlessly sings “Oh darling/Can you come over to my house/We can do things that we’ve never done” on the former - and the supple group harmonies will have you bopping around the room in seconds flat.

A couple spiritual leaning folk tunes (“Someone Like Daniel,” “In the Name of Jesus Christ”) recall early Coldplay. They break the giddy flow and should’ve been relegated to bonus track status, but overall this is stellar stuff. Dig the ingenious cover and title graphics. The first strong debut of 2009 so far.

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