If you’ve heard the lead singles ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’ and ‘Sometimes’ then you, like me, assumed Oscar’s debut would consist of pure noggin-bobbing anthems purpose-built to keep your local indie disco going for a few more years. Going by these early cuts you could imagine Oscar harbouring the reincarnated soul of Esser/Kid Harpoon/insert short-lived indie-bopper, a cheeky chappy with a bagful of decent tunes ready to spearhead the noughties revival the world has been waiting for (disclaimer: the noughties revival is not here. Even the phrase ‘noughties revival’ should be boycotted until at least 2030. If you catch anyone saying it ironically please feel free to flick Make Poverty History wristbands at them until they never speak again).
Though ‘Cut And Paste’ does have its fair share of singalongs to spill your pint to, the 100mph guitar pop we were all promised is far thinner on the ground than anyone expected. For all of four minutes the illusion of optimism persists as the monstrous earworm that is ‘Sometimes’ pumps out its brash blend of pogo stick pop and Buzzcocks-indebted springing guitar. Then, as the final synth-parp fades away, everything changes. Jittery drums scuttle under an oppressive Kim Deal bassline and a lost melodica skulks around the corners like Hard Fi just crashed your party and are all trying unsuccessfully to score. Oscar’s voice further deepens until it resembles ‘Dark Young Hearts’ to such a degree that you’re tempted to unmask the current FrYars an imposter.
‘Be Good’ eventually swings back to a David Byrne gospel chorus, but that initial blast of misery lingers for the rest of the album. For all the euphoria to be found in the folds of ‘Daffodil Days’ and ‘Beautiful Words’ there are large stretches of ‘Cut And Paste’ that are unexpectedly gloomy. On the first listen this really pulls the rug from under you, but on repeated listens these more mournful moments add bite to what could have easily been an enjoyable but forgettable effort. Almost like the first Hoosiers album…
All joking aside, there are a diverse multitude of post-millennial musical touchstones on this album (there’s another phrase that should be boycotted until 2030, I swear I’ll stop coining them). ‘Cut And Paste’ really lives up to its name: ‘Fifteen’ boasts a chorus is lifted straight from Guillemots’ ‘Made Up Love Song #43’, ‘Daffodil Days’’ verse echoes Blood Red Shoes’ ‘When We Wake’ and the Marika Hackman-featuring ‘Only Friend’ is a Beirut identikit. There’s a decent whiff of landfill indie in the air as well, but for those of the right age the scent selectively brings back great memories of frantically scanning the credits of Skins for band recommendations and aggressively stalking Joe Mount. This feels very much like the music a 24-year-old should be making, a wistful look back to a time when guitar music could be unabashed and joyful without irony.
This early-onset nostalgia is very much mirrored in Oscar’s earnestness as a lyricist. His words sparkle with wide-eyed innocence while betraying a careworn demeanour underneath. It’s the chorus to ‘Good Things’ that sums up the album most neatly: “We’re all waiting for good things to happen / Everybody knows it’s true” Oscar moans to a generation tired of being made fun of for keeping The Dead 60s on their iPod Classic even though they cut the entirety of ‘Kinda Kinks’ in order to keep under its woefully insufficient triple-digit gigabyte capacity. ‘Cut And Paste’ is a well-crafted slice of guitar pop in and of itself, but it largely functions as a placeholder album that succeeds in stoking into life the flickering embers of a dying flame without ever truly reigniting the pyre. In the world of #indieamnesty and the first virgin pangs of nostalgia in us ‘millennials’, Oscar’s existence makes a lot of sense.
Words: Josh Gray
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