Review : Cut Off Your Hands - Hollow
PitchforkI saw Cut Off Your Hands live in 2007. They had just lost a gig on a children's TV show in their native New Zealand because of their name. When they were booked for the performance they'd been called Shaky Hands, but a threat of legal action by the Portland band Shaky Hands forced them to change it. Their somewhat sarcastic choice of a new moniker cost them a payday. It either didn't phase them or motivated them, because when they got on stage, they were nearly out of control. Vocalist Nick Johnston likes to get into the crowd, and his performing style amounts to a cardio workout.
They've grown up quite a bit since then, and though I've heard they're still wild on stage, the music they make in the studio has moved on from their post-punk roots. Hollow, their second LP, sounds much closer to the late-1980s/early-1990s work of British rock bands in the vein of Kitchens of Distinction, the House of Love, and the Trash Can Sinatras. There's a distinctive, clear-toned chime to the guitars, an airy drum sound, and the occasional backing vocal joining Johnston in unison-- it all adds up to something with the feel of that era. It has a dash of classic punk-informed NZ pop like the Bats, too, and should be right in the wheelhouse of anyone who pines for the long-ago days of classic college rock (or simply likes indie rock with a little sweep to it).
The band opens the album deceptively, with a shuffling drum beat similar to the one from Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz". When the rest of the band comes in, it turns to be a soft-hued and propulsive bit of swooning jangle pop, not some kind of rave-up. "Hollowed Out" offers an idea of what Echo and the Bunnymen might have sounded like in the mid-80s if Ian McCulloch had taken a less operatic approach to singing, while guitarist Michael Ramirez gets a nice showcase for his textured layering on "Down & Out". The band as a whole is at its finest on the slightly psychedelic "Nausea": Johnston's slightly flat singing on the verse sets up the key change and lighter tone of the catchy chorus surprisingly well....full text
PopmattersO the halcyon days of indie! In our bedsit slums we were recast as triumphant Kings and Queens. Princes of the Gutter! An armour of thrift store shabby chic. We built our empire within the mirrors of magical record sleeves, trailing vicariously in the footsteps of a seer’s serenade. The rain fell as diamonds, the moon was our spotlight. Lines were drawn, sides were taken. Our anti-gang gang, sullenly pouting, running with the dogs tonight. We scrawled our musical manifestos like warpaint across our tattered school bags. We courted fair maidens with tales of obscure B-sides and mythic secret gigs. We fought the enemy on the beaches…but we mostly ran away quickly. Aah the sound of alchemy! I pray it’s still out there and someone, somewhere is clutching newly born, working class angst against their heaving bosoms like they were the second coming. But the winning days of the Smiths, the Cure, and the Stone Roses suddenly seem so far away. In 2011, the idea that jangly guitars could “unite and takeover” seems like quaint romanticism. Almost laughable in fact.
Kiwi crooners Cut Off Your Hands have worked this corner before. Their perky 2008 début You & I was even guided by one of the Indie Illuminati, Sir Bernard of Butler from Suede. So having been anointed, sworn allegiance ‘n’ palmed Thou Sacred Indie Oath, they manfully step back up and reach again for the flame with shivering stumps. From generation to generation! Yes, Hollow is not so much as “inspired by” Indie myth ‘n’ legend as gleefully daubed in the blood of their snake-hipped, bedsit Bard ancestry and now running around the garden screaming, actually. Time to fly or die my underfed whippets…...full text
RockeditionIn a press statement, frontman Nick Johnston explained, “Our first record was pretty eclectic, both lyrically and sonically. We were unsure of what we wanted to achieve with it, so we needed a producer like [former Suede guitarist] Bernard [Butler] to tie it all together. With ‘Hollow,’ we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve....full text
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