Like The Editors and the Shitty Beatles, Cut Copy practically begged for derision the moment they named themselves. Let's be honest, these guys aren't exactly re-inventing the synthesizer, openly cribbing from New Order, Duran Duran, and Human League. Had they signed to Island and been unable to wrangle DFA linchpin Tim Goldsworthy to get behind the boards, the Australian trio's lack of originality would surely be used to paint them as another faded dance-punk outfit leftover from the '03-'04 pandemonium -- when hipsters discovered, "hey, maybe this whole moving-in-rhythm thing isn't nearly as bad as Stephen Malkmus made it out to be."
Timothy Norris Cut Copy: A dance band at the right moment in time.
So at a time when bands like We Are Scientists, Hot Hot Heat, and Every Move A Picture are stranded by the side of the road holding up faded cardboard signs reading "will play cowbell for food," Cut Copy are flourishing. Last year's phenomenal, In Ghost Colours cracked every stateside year-end Top 10, and proved once and for all that Americans find a certain charm in an excessive use of the letter "U." Meanwhile, this is their third-go-round to Los Angeles in the last 12 months, following stops at Coachella, LA Weekly's Detour Festival, and now, two sold-out dates at The Henry Fonda.
Except that Wednesday night's performance had to be shifted to the hideous fluorescent babble of L.A. Live's Club Nokia, a place so sterile that it looks like a hospital that allows gambling. Apparently, an anonymous tip the night before led to the fire marshals arriving at the Fonda and declaring the place over-crowded, shutting down the set after just an hour. But despite Club Nokia's increased capacity and the last-minute venue switch, it was still a mobbed cluster-fuck of neon-clad teenagers, Pitchfork-prostrate hipsters, and your normal four-concert-a-year type.
As a friend of mine pointed out, Cut Copy have entered into the Hot Chip/Rapture realm of pop music that straight white guys feel okay dancing to. Had you questioned the vast majority of people in the room, they'd probably tell you that Cut Copy are a dance band that incorporate guitars, even though the opposite is more apt. Sure, there's a French House filigree and red flashing LED lights, but at their core, Cut Copy are guitar pop in the key of Talking Heads or Blur.
If they weren't highly gifted with melody and blessed with the esoteric ability to induce non-stilted Caucasian locomotion, there'd be something oppressively generic to their performance. Onstage, the members are practically indistinguishable. I couldn't tell you the names of anyone in the band without resorting to Wikipedia. Frontman Dan Whitford's stage moves seem confined to tapping his feet and pumping his fist in the air like he'd just won a cricket match. At best, you can say that the other guys are there. Nor do their lyrics do much to alter that impression, with song titles including "Heart On Fire," "Strangers in the Wind," "Lights and Music," and "Visions." Judging from the titular triteness, you'd probably guess that they were a Nashville steel-guitar ensemble with a mild drug problem.
Even the setlist had a tinge of the prosaic--commencing with single "Hearts on Fire," closing with "Feel the Love," and "Out There On the Ice," along the way tapping all the major touchstones from their two albums. No covers, not much talking between sets, other than to offer a few bromides about dancing and having fun. But in their sedentary simplicity, there's something incredibly ingratiating to Cut Copy. They might not do anything perfect, but they do everything very well (except, maybe assign names to things).
There's dozens of reasons to go to a show, but few better than to have fun. Right now, you'd be hard-pressed to find many bands capable of putting on a more entertaining show than these dudes. During their encore, no one was carping about the oppressive conformity of the Nokia, or the knuckleheads spilling dozen dollar drinks on them. They were too busy dancing--the floor springy like a trampoline, everyone's problems temporarily consigned to the recesses of their mind. Amateurs can cut and copy sounds, but only excellent bands can re-create that sort of unbridled euphoria. Cut Copy is an excellent band.