After the recent announcement that Exeter's the Cut Ups had signed to the UK's largest independent punk rock record label, Household Name (Capdown, Leftover Crack, Big D and the Kids Table), it seemed apt that their debut effort Paris Street In Ruins, released on their own label All Gone Wrong back in 2006, get some recognition on the almighty Punknews.
As album opener "A Broken Neck" kicks off, we are greeted by vocalist/guitarist Jon Curtis' distinctive vocals as he sings, "It's been a while since I've been home / Collomton's waiting / I stand alone." This song sets the tone of the album, as Curtis belts out "Everybody here is waiting, but I did that too / No more time for hesitating, 'cause I did that too." Curtis' lyrics are central to the brilliance of this album, and the themes that recur throughout Paris Street centre around what Curtis sees as the importance of hope, the necessity for change and the value, if not solace, that can be found in friendships.
Having owned this album for two years, I am still struck by the honesty of the music contained within it. The aforementioned lyrics of Curtis are often simple and to the point, but at the same time they are complex and extremely deep-reaching; "And if I should fall in flames I know / That I tried to make it change / Not Marx, just fair, just equal / Time to change what we have become."
Lyrics aside, the Cut Ups have been compared musically to everyone's favourite band, the Bouncing Souls, and this is immediately obvious as Curtis' vocal style is at times uncannily similar to that of Greg Antonito's (with a dash of Billy Bragg). The similarity with the Souls does not end there though, and in terms of instrumentation and even song structure, there are comparisons that can be made -- "Reza Is from Iran" in particular reminds me of the Souls.
The excellent "Here's Another Way" provides an anthem for change, with the rousing call from Curtis to "Choose a better life / Rise and stay above it! Ride bikes! Start bands! Do the things that can't be done / No fights for us, we're champions!"
Precluding song, a short acoustic tune titled "Rise to These Trials," provides a break from the intensity of the previous tracks and proves that Curtis is not a one-trick-pony, and can cut it without the backing of the rhythm section (Reza Mirehsan [drums] and Adam Searle [bass, backing vocals]).
All in all, this is one of the best albums I've heard over the last few years. From start to finish it is absolutely solid. The production is excellent, and the songs offer everything any respectable modern-day punk rocker (Orger?) should want: great choruses to scream along to, catchy melodies, honest words that you can believe in and a sense of optimism and hope that none of us should be without in these trying times. To top it off, the artwork that comes with the CD is rad, and the booklet contains all the lyrics. Essentially, if you're a fan of anything from the Souls, Leatherface and D4, to the likes of Against Me! and Gaslight Anthem -- you're probably going to dig this. Let's just hope for more of the same when the new album is released later this year.