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The Cuts: 2 Over Ten

Jason Thompson

The Cuts

2 Over Ten

Label: Birdman
US Release Date: 2003-05-27
UK Release Date: Available as import

Here we are once again with another band doing a retro sound and looking all disheveled in their photos to let you know they are 100% sincere about looking back in time towards the '70s. At this point in time, having heard countless bands of late do this exact same thing, I can only wonder if the whole garage movement is getting more irritating than the grunge of the early '90s. At least grunge had a distinct sound that didn't grasp so much into the past. And its look was, at the very least, an updated disheveled appearance, knowingly neat at times. This whole garage outbreak, on the other hand, relies way too much on looking the part and borrowing too many ideas from 30 years ago that were not always that great to begin with and were certainly groovier in their original context. Seems like no one's told this to most of the groups out there now who are proudly displaying their greasy hair, Goodwill fashions, and trashy sounding guitars.

Well, it's high time they should. And no better place to do this than with the Cuts. They like to drop such influences as the Kinks, the Who, the Velvets, the Zombies, Love, and Television on their web site to let you know where they're coming from. But I listened to 2 Over Ten and got the distinct impression that these guys really enjoy the Flamin' Groovies. Hey, nothing wrong with that at all. The Groovies have always been one of the most under-appreciated groups of all time. They're the band that basically defined the whole melodic, British-influenced garage pop sound. But as is the problem with so many other retro garage groups these days, the Cuts only remind you of how great their influences were and that no amount of newer substitution will take the cake.

Not even the leadoff track, "How Can I Get Through", is very noteworthy. Lead singer Andy Jordan sounds unquestionably like Ric Ocasek at his most adenoidal. This could be a good thing if it were the Cars that the Cuts were aping, but in this case, with their slapdash, loose-as-a-goose pop, it just sounds awkward. The background vocals here courtesy of Jordan and keyboardist Dan Aaberg are significantly off key, causing the intended sunny sound to nose dive right off the bat.

"Electric Nite" is where the Groovies influence is far too obvious. The dirty, distorted guitar licks arrive with a stop-start riff that sounds like it could rock right out of the room. It's just too bad that Jordan has to open his mouth and start singing once again, sounding less like Ocasek this time and more like a Vegas soul crooner. The guy just can't really sing, to put it bluntly. And yes, that's often the case in groups like this, where style is more important than technical proficiency, but if that's going to be the case then at least get someone who can't really sing but can sing better than this guy, please.

Aaberg gets to do just that on "Paradise", and he fares no better, but what really sinks his off-key singing is the band this time around. What the hell is up with those out of tune guitars and the barely-together rhythm section? And really, Aaberg's voice is absolutely horrid compared to Jordan's pipes. Maybe they should just hire a good lead vocalist and focus more on their playing. It certainly couldn't hurt.

But its those voices that mar all the could-be great tunes on this album, be it on the title track, where it sounds like the Cuts are finally getting their shit together, or the closing "The Early Bird", which does manage to get some blood pumping. By the time it does, the album is finally over and you're left wondering who could groove to such a thing. Apparently there are a number of other critics who are grooving to 2 Over Ten, but I get the feeling their minds will change after a short time. At the end of the day, this band is just another in a long line of retro-wannabe rockers who have nothing remotely new to add to the already moldy pile of rock it's getting tossed upon. 2 Over Ten is only good to remind those with discriminating taste that the music from the "good old days" was done a hundred times better when it was new.

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