The Cut Ups - The High and Mighty (Cover Artwork)

The Cut Ups

The High and Mighty (2009)

Household Name

Since the release of their brilliant debut Paris Street in Ruins in 2006, the Cut Ups have acquired a new bassist and a new record label. While these changes (more so the former, less so the latter) have ultimately and quite naturally altered the band's sound -- the songwriting more refined. Their latest release, The High and Mighty finds them still charting the same honest and heartfelt waters they so casually conquered with Paris Streets.

Most instantly noticeable is a ‘cleaner,' layered guitar sound; Curtis' rhythm guitar often complemented by previous bassist Adam Searle's lead work. The album doesn't begin to flow though until third track "Last Night I Dreamt I Saw Fugazi," which finds the band at the top of their game, Curtis retelling the narrative of -- you guessed it -- an encounter with Fugazi, the song itself gradually morphing into something that sounds discreetly Fugazi-esque as the discordant second guitar wails in the background, serenading the song to its post-hardcore (?) conclusion accompanied by a gang chant of "we're still here / but we're not trying."

The band's evolving and improving songwriting is really exhibited by the structure and instrumentation of "The King of Exwick," the prolonged instrumental introduction building towards short blasts of verse. Curtis' lyrics are, as ever, short and sharp, just saying enough and never too much. In fact, the sheer quality of songs like "The King of Exwick" annuls the occasional presence of lazy couplets ("I have no name, but I still sing the same" and "I might not leave a trace, but I'm happy in this place") on the likes of "Die Lieber Zimmer Auf."

The best on this occasion is saved for last though, the final two tracks being certain highlights. While "I Asked the Wrong Question" sounds like Paris Streets-era Cut Ups, "Let's Go Home" is nothing short of brilliant, its ascending/descending chorus riff backed by galloping rhythm and perhaps Curtis' strongest set of lyrics, getting reflective as he belts out "I've seen, I've heard, I've left, I've learned."

All in all, The High and Mighty is a solid release. It may not be as instantly endearing and lovable as its predecessor, but it is, however, its perfect accompaniment. In a songwriting sense it is more mature -- an evolution, a step forward. It breaks no boundaries and nor does it transgress genres or rattle the cage of convention -- but then that wouldn't be the Cut Ups. These songs are transparent and bullshit free -- flashes of truth in a storm of lies. That's punk rock, and that's the Cut Ups.