Cut Off Your Hands
Shaky Hands is a great name for an indie power pop group - a tad cheeky and irreverent. Figures another band would have something similar.
The Auckland band formed in '06 and a while later released their self-titled EP "Shaky Hands." They were promptly advised that there was another group, from the States - in a place called Portland, Oregon, that was calling themselves The Shaky Hands. Before a hoard of lawyers could descend on the New Zealand group they became Cut Off Your Hands.
The EP proved successful and Cut Off Your Hands played the Australian/New Zealand Big Day Out festivals in '07 and '08. Also in '07, the group landed in the States for South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin and some showcase stints in New York before bouncing (a five hour plane ride) to London for a BBC appearance. They also rolled out another EP "Blue On Blue."
'08 was spent touring and recording yet another EP, "Happy As Can Be," as well as their debut full-length album, "You & I."
When the term "power-pop" was initially coined it was used to define groups that fell somewhere between the usually vacuous music that ruled the Billboard Hot 100 and Punk. That covered a lot of ground.
Punk dealt with crumbling governments and a decaying social environment while power-pop focused on boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl and boy-gets-girl-back or (more often) not. Eventually though, calling a band power-pop was a kind way of dismissing them. Nobody liked it - except the public.
Over time, power-pop mutated into "post-Punk power-pop." That didn't really work because Punk had a habit of returning so there was even post-Punk Punk (Green Day).
Besides, it didn't do that power-pop was defined relative to another genre. So, somebody developed the handle "indie power-pop." This implied the group's sound, based on the indie label ethos, was closer to Punk than pop, without having to come right out and say so. Indie power-pop defines exactly Cut Off Your Hands. Nick Johnston has dramatic, charmingly affected style, and the backing vocals are sung (rather than shouted - a Punk trait).
"You & I" opens with "Happy As Can Be," a song with '60s embellishments and crescendo rolls. "Expectations" is good ol' double beat fun. Turning the beat around, to double-time, "Still Fond" lands in the same place. The mid-tempo "Oh Girl" shows their pop chops while "Turn Cold" cranks up the heat.
For all their brashly raucous guitar-oriented drive Cut Off Your Hands undercut themselves when they veer from their strengths. Even biblical references don't help. The ballad "In The Name Of Jesus Christ" just lays there and "Something Like Daniel" referencing 'Daniel and the lions', doesn't fare any better. But when they are on top of their game - which is the majority of the album - they're pretty good. If you're a one trick pony - hey, play the trick.