There's something to be said of the timing of New Zealand quartet, Cut Off Your Hands' debut LP, You & I. If it had been released two years ago it might've been dismissed as just another in the line of post-punk revivals. Thankfully though, it's been released in 2009, and the distance from said rock movement turns out to be quite refreshing.
Angular in the right spots, like in "Turn Cold" and "Expectations", nostalgic in others; "Oh Girl" and "It Doesn't Matter" and originally modern the rest of the time, You & I feels like an amalgamation of the best parts of the New Wave, 60s pop and the Manchester sound of bands like Doves. The result is a listen steeped in enjoyment and carefree party pop.
Perhaps a large comparison can be drawn to The Smiths' more uptempo numbers. "Turn Cold" feels like "Girl Afraid" on a sugar buzz, with COYH's guitarist Michael Ramirez channelling Marr's tight guitar work. Meanwhile, vocalist Nick Johnston croons an octave higher than monsieur Morrissey, but still with a sweet sense of irony and wit, with lines like "It's just normal I know, but I can't bear to be sober" from "It Doesn't Matter" or "Last night I told a thousand lies to you/Into your eyes I swore that I loved you." It's all very enjoyable to feel that tongue in cheek. Thankfully though, where The Smiths would tend to mope on a bit too long, COYH tend toward the sentimental ("Oh Girl").
While the album does sound very tight and ready for the radio waves -- thanks to slick producer and ex-Sueder Bernard Butler (Black Kids, Duffy) -- there are two tracks that stand out above the rest, "Still Fond" and "Happy As Can Be".
"Still Fond", much like its title implies is a sweet little number about the urge to reconnect, but its point is made over a driving melody of New Wave glory. All parts come together to create a crisp and tight movement with Ramirez's simplistic fuzz of a hook connecting the dots over some of the best cohesion of drum and bass on the album. When it's hard to notice the individual parts, that's when it's done well. "Still Fond" is New Wave for the new generation.
The standout track of the album by far is one that doesn't bear much resemblance to the rest of the album, but by no means does the album or song suffer as a result. "Happy As Can Be" is the Phil Spector-esque wall of sound to the rest of the album's New Wave appeal, and as the opening track to You & I, it hooks you immediately. It is a track that builds up with rolling drums and driving bass, with echoing guitars and vast vocals a la U2 without really overstaying its welcome. It also doesn't hurt that every time I listen to the opening bars of the first verse I think I'm listening to a more modern update on The Beatles "Please Please Me". Seriously, listen to the beginnings back to back.
There are a couple slower numbers thrown in here and there on You & I, sort of as a statement to COYH's versatility, but it is the quicker pace and raucous party of the rest of the album that really show off the charm. And charming the album is, because despite the constant grasping at comparisons to the post-punk party of a few years ago you'll probably find yourself thoroughly enjoying You & I.