Published Apr 03, 2009One brio-filled album and a handful of promising EPs deep, Kiwi combo Cut Off Your Hands could ride simmering "New Zealand is the next Sweden/Brooklyn/Scotland/wherever" hype to indie rock stardom. In a frenetic, exultant, and refreshingly brisk Toronto debut, the quartet burned through their set, seemingly unfazed by an extended spat of e-zine fellatio. 1980s revival be damned, the keyboard's re-emergence has gone on too long.
Cut Off Your Hands needed neither synths nor strings to put a sheen on their raucous tunes. These days the guitar/bass/vocals/drums setup seems antiquated, yet COYH capitalized on the straight-ahead paradigm. Choral scream-along, "You And I," kick-started a set that never slowed and seldom faltered. The boisterous chanting of "Expectations" and a sped-up "Still Fond" exploded, even with second-wave-emo leanings; "Happy As Can Be" looked to '50s rock via early (aka good) Weezer and judiciously mixed backup "ooohs" (a COYH staple); and monumental "Oh Girl" meticulously piled on the noise.
Owing sporadic lines or lilts to late period Brit guitar bands (most strikingly the Cribs), Cut Off Your Hands is a rock outfit, despite what those contagious hooks would have you believe. At turns, the guitar crashed with abandon or trudged with aplomb, especially on "Turn Cold," which could have disappeared in the set list were it not for shiny-then-dirty back-pocket riffs. Simultaneously, the rhythm section proffered their own shambolic assault.
Lithely bounding about, yelping where needed, and providing much of the band's unpolished charm, front-man Nick Johnston controlled the stage. Though lyrics occasionally wandered into teen romance/angst territory, á la Los Campesinos! (notably on "Nostalgia"), the band tethered or lifted them as required. Through ten tracks, thankfully cover song and encore free, Cut Off Your Hands delivered a near-perfect set filled with measured frenzy and sweaty hooks.