It would have been an interesting job to have been a custodian at The Independent, the club that Cut Off Your Hands played at the end of February during the Noise Pop festival this year. There would been the standard, post-performance rubbish languishing on the concrete floor, crushed and bothered, smeared with all of the other street grime, mixed in with the beer that was paid for and wasted down the legs of goers. Also there amidst all of that, near the front of the stage, directly in front of where lead singer Nick Johnston kept his microphone stand, there must have been one of two chips from teeth, cracked off pieces of pearly white that left their former keepers still grammatically able speak properly, just with more of a whistle sound with the S words they want to get out. Before the first song of the New Zealand band's set had been alive for longer than a minute, Johnston had turned from his full bottle of hot liquor that he kept near Brent Harris' drum kit and sprinted full-speed into the audience. He returned to the stage looking as if he took the worst of it, with two red-ass cheeks that looked as if they'd been whipped with a wet towel or a belt buckle. We could all let out a deep exhale though. The spastic young man wasn't hurt a lick. He just gets excited (already exhibited by the booze-cajoled dash into the paying customers) and when he gets excited, that goes doubly for the temperature and blood capsules in his baby cheeks. They get as red as embarrassment. The kind of excitement that Johnston allows to work itself up inside is the exact same effect the band's sonic output throws at all who are listening. It's all of the testosterone that typically gets suppressed in the majority of males and it's like a triple shot of it that females tend to only experience when they're pregnant with a young male inside their womb. It's an unavoidably stiff kick in the bellies, this music of Cut Off Your Hands, a band that comes after you like a rabid dog that knows a thing or two about still being romantic and cluelessly so, as it were. One thing Johnston chooses to try to figure out - and we've all learned this to be a hopeless sort of endeavor - is the nature of the beastly thing called love and as such a young kid still, his findings take on the breathlessly discouraged, dizzily confused and shocking conclusions of a manic preacher, yearning to find those glimmers of hope in the ruckus. The band's debut full-length - You & I -- is a short-fused diorama of the various, nettlesome worries that set swirling above a guy's head when ladies and the pressures of real life are just starting to be one and the same, when life and love take predictable turns into devastatingly graphic structures of forbidden fruit and cold, cruel responses. Or, that's one of the ways it all can go if allowed to go untended or unmodified. The tizzies that Cut Off Your Hands spurs up and into existence are all bred of the fundamental insistence that "none of this is ever going to become clearer, so let's just pillage it, knock some stuff over, get pissed and fall asleep with a fuzzy conscious - not necessarily in that order or any determined cap on the frequency that it can occur." It's almost always better to get worked up over something than to just yawn and grimace, to passively let it detonate amid a huge, collective sigh. Those whip marks on the cheeks and those whistle-y bits of front teeth are badges of honor and signs of four guys caring enough about the chaotic feelings to hurt themselves in the process of discovering the head from the ass of whatever ails them.
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