PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Cut Copy: Bright Like Neon Love

John Bergstrom

Cut Copy

Bright Like Neon Love

Label: Modular
US Release Date: 2004-05-18
UK Release Date: Available as import

At least Dan Whitford knows what he likes. Bright Like Neon Love, the Australian one man band's debut album, is an homage to all that was cool and campy about the last three decades: '70s disco and new wave, '80s "New Romantic" synthpop, and '90s eurodance. Then, in a gesture maybe meant to show that he really is serious, Whitford slices through it all with filtered, New Order guitars. That you could listen to Bright Like Neon Love while watching We are the '80s on VH-1 Classic with the sound turned down and be none the wiser is of little consequence to Whitford. Why let a little nostalgia get in the way of his aesthetic?

In the end it's Whitford's sincerity that saves the album. His refusal to get cutesy means that Bright Like Neon Love avoids being a cloying, "ironic" exercise in postmodern cheese. There are no glitterball anthems or vocodered songs about computers here, and nothing life-changing, either. Just some pretty decent pop that you can dance to.

At their best, acts like the Human League and New Order were able to use their electronics and disaffected vocals to achieve a weird kind of emotional resonance. Clearly, Whitford has learned from that model. The icy synthesizers and jagged guitar lines work well with the lovelorn material; these are lonely-sounding songs about being lonely.

"Time Stands Still" has the classic disco beat down cold, and then come the sequencers and analog synths -- the kind that go, "weeew, weeew waguugh." If Kylie Minogue were to start singing, you wouldn't be that surprised. "Future" is a straightforward dance track with a catchy chorus and a bit of a trick up its sleeve: Midway through, it morphs into a guitar-driven rock song (think Billy Idol, not Billy Corgan). Give credit to Whitford for not making everything sound the same, as it tended to "back then"; "Saturdays" gets a nifty little Tom Tom Club-style funk thing going, which, to be honest, is the only way Whitford was going to pull off a chorus like, "When I'm lookin' for you / I call your number and I can't get through" with a straight face. "Going Nowhere" is studded with stop-start guitar that recalls Blondie, while "dd-5" is slick, streamlined neo-disco that approximates a slightly less French Daft Punk.

The farther into the track listing Bright Like Neon Love goes, the more the guitars come to the forefront; and the more the guitars come to the forefront, the more weight the album holds (probably because the synth sounds Whitford uses are particularly wimpy). On "The Twilight" and the shimmering "Autobahn Music Box", Whitford achieves a satisfying balance between retro pop and contemporary indie rock, much like Jason Martin did on Starflyer 59's turn-of-the-millennium albums. "Bright Neon Payphone" even goes as far as adding a frenetic, syncopated New Order rhythm. If you were put off by the disco stuff, you may be breathing a sigh of relief.

Bright Like Neon Love was mixed by Philippe Zdar from eurodance duo Cassius, worth noting because he gives the album just the right flair; he obviously knows how to pan and fade for maximum brain/feet effect. With his help, Whitford has created the perfect device for turning your living room into a hip European café. Or watching VH-1 Classic with the sound turned down.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.