opinion by BENJI TAYLOR
1988. IT boffins and astrophysicists will remember it as a year of significant firsts – the year of the first major computer virus, the “1988 Internet worm”, and the discovery of the very first extrasolar planet, Gamma Cephei Ab. Seasoned ravers and technophiles remember it for a very different significant “second” however – the second “Summer Of Love”… the explosion of Acid House in Europe ushered in via a cloudburst of MDMA and the clamour from a thousand Roland TB-303 synthesizers screeching in unison.
I was too young to experience the music of the Acid House movement first-hand, but a certain member of my family – part of that scene, and gripped by its seemingly voracious thirst for merriment – would regale me on a weekly basis with the latest stories from her late night soirées: information on illegal raves spreading by word-of-mouth, illegal parties in hidden caverns, raspberry ice pops being passed out to combat the dehydrating effects of mammoth marathon dancing sessions. It made a lasting impression on me, and – obsessed – I began to absorb the music of the time like a sapling scrabbling for water: Phuture, Armando, A Guy Called Gerald – and then later more popular acts like 808 State, Experience-era Prodigy, and K-Klass.
Listening to Cut Copy’s fourth LP Free Your Mind it’s obvious that multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Dan Whitford has a similar passion for the music of that era – the album is heavily indebted to the acid-house sounds of the late eighties and early nineties. It’s characterised by ubiquitous 4/4 beats, Roland-esque bass squelches and euphoria inducing reverb-laden ascending piano lines, and is cut from a cloth as psychedelic and fluorescent as the album artwork.
Vocally Whitford veers towards the dance-rock frontmen from the era who made it their business to revitalise a UK music scene licking its wounds after the acrimonious departure of The Smiths: Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder, The Stone Roses’ Ian Brown, Primal Scream’s Bobby Gilespie. His voice is more uniquely accented than on previous albums too, though his vocals still posseses that feathery wraith-like quality.
Lyrically and thematically the tracks are simple and basic – but it would be unwise to expect to find the meaning of life at the bottom of an Acid House lyric. The electro-glitch disco of the title track urges you to “free your mind”, a mantra very much attached to the first Summer Of Love in 1967 (which also clearly inspires the psychedelic leanings of the LP), and clichéd lyrical phrases such as this abound: “Don’t need no gravity to hold our love in place” on “Let Me Show You Love”, and “We are explorers when the beat goes on/ We’re on a journey to the morning sun…” on “We are Explorers”.
It’s all about the music though; the trippy, corny-but-fun lyrics are secondary. “Meet Me In The House Of Love” melds glorious sax to pulsating bass, and elsewhere there’s plenty of punchy percussion, fuzzy hyperactive rhythms, and soaring synths swilring around stabbing piano motifs to keep you consistently engaged. “We Are Explorers” recalls classic Pet Shop Boys in terms of production, and “Take Me Higher” surges and builds like a kaleidoscopic maelstrom.
Free Your Mind is an album that’s sure to make early Acid House DJ pioneers such as Danny Rampling, Paul Oakenfold, and Nicky Holloway smile as they reminisce about that 1987 summer in Ibiza, back when they had their epiphany about the style of music they wanted to forge back home. The LP is revisionary as opposed to revolutionary, owing much in style and substance to Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, but it’s successful because Cut Copy reflect past sounds via the prism of modern pop, refining and rechanneling their influences in the process.
The only issue is that some tracks are slightly overlong, and the trio of short interludes feel unnecessary – threatening to pull you out of the moment and stifle the gradually escalating sense of euphoria. This is a small complaint, however, given the consistently infectious hooks and melodies, and the manner in which it brilliantly and wistfully evokes rose-tinted memories of the lost Golden Age of dance. [B]