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Bright Like Neon Love

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Album Review

The Australian dance-pop group Cut Copy, fronted by multi-instrumentalist/DJ/graphic designer Dan Whitford, ends their stellar debut album with "A Dream," a mellow come down from a record scattershot with retro-dance and rock ideas fitted together with ebullient grooves. Perhaps it would have been better served as an introduction to what is such a free flowing, unrestrained electronic dance record. Bright Like Neon Love — and by extension Whitford — is so enamored with simple ideals of dance music, it feels like a dreamy, unconscious state of hypnotic rhythms designed purely for easy listening. Conversely, in no way does this strong rookie effort ever really test the listener — rarely does Whitford expand beyond the confines of catchy synth loops and simplistic, manipulated vocals — but as a perfectionist of the pop music craft, any one of these nine main tracks (there are two interludes; and "That Was Just a Dream" and "Zap Zap" are really just one song) could have appeared on a Kylie or Madonna record as sure-fire hit singles. At times the rock star in Whitford seems to supersede the '80s pop fanatic, most notably the infectious synth-meets-guitars riff on "Going Nowhere," the largely instrumental "The Twilight" and the near alternative rock/post-grunge of "Bright Neon Payphone," yet the album's greatest strength is how Whitford remains on an even keel throughout, almost melting down his favorite rock and dance elements to their most simplistic state to make them more palatable. As jarring as switching from synths to guitars can be, Bright Like Neon Love remains consistently a pop record. The lyrics and vocals also play a major factor in making Cut Copy's sound so easy on the ears, as Whitford tends to not sing with much voracity or even mild interest. On "Saturdays," he barely even mutters the rather inane opening lines "When I'm looking for you/I call your number but I can't get through" before the synth-vocoder backing vocals kick in (a common inclusion throughout the album) and the song transforms from a more effervescent version of Stardust's "Music Sounds Better with You" to an uncontained explosion of fuzzy synths, handclaps, and sampled loops. The only other moment on this record that equals the untethered fun of the aforementioned songs' second half is the thumping transition into "Zap Zap," which serves as the album's major landmark. Propelled by rapidly moving phase changes and synth vocals, it's Whitford's only true "DJ" moment on the record — as he finds the perfect beat and feels content to bask in it for over a couple of minutes.


Formed: Melbourne, Australia

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Australian indie electronic group Cut Copy take many of their cues from contemporaries like Air, Daft Punk, and LCD Soundsystem, but with a distinctly pop sensibility that draws on classic AM radio pop singles from the 1970s and '80s, with elements of vintage disco and synth pop that appeal to song-based listeners as well as to club kidz. Cut Copy started in 2001 as a solo project by songwriter, producer, and DJ Dan Whitford, who released the single 1981 and the EP I Thought of Numbers before drafting...
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Bright Like Neon Love, Cut Copy
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