Cut Off Your Hands : Hollow
It made a lot of sense for Bernard Butler to produce the first album by Cut Off Your Hands. The New Zealanders shared Suede's love of The Smiths, but also the twisting of its wan tendencies into something harsher, more angular and with a little bit of a pout. If You & I was an acceptable but hardly ground-breaking initiation into the cool indie world via Butler's careful handling of their sound, Hollow is the deal-breaker. Having scrapped an entire album's worth of material and recorded the eventual album at break-neck speed, they have managed to produce a superior second album.
The Smiths are marked off the checklist early on - the gorgeous You Should Do Better has more than a whiff of This Charming Man. A heavy debt is also paid to Echo & the Bunnymen, with a brooding menace muddying the waters on Nausea and Hollowed Out. Brent Harris takes over from Nick Johnston for vocals on the bleary-eyed Oh Hell, adding a light touch to the middle of the album. And from here, it goes from strength to strength, peaking with the sonic chug of Down And Out and the dreamy, washed-out closer Buried.
Not only does Hollow have sturdier rhythms, the lyrics are much improved too, revealing a band that's older and wiser, but still young and fresh. There's less of the bold, brash 'Hands on these nine tracks and they are clearly morphing into something considerably less shaky.
Best track: Down And Out
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In A Word: Steady