Metropolis by Cut Capers – Album Review
By David Schuster
Picture this… A speakeasy in 1920’s New York: At small tables men in pinstripe suits and spats try making witty conversation with debutantes in flapper dresses, elegantly smoking from long cigarette holders. Waiters in white aprons glide around, dispensing gin from tea pots into bone-china cups and saucers; this is the prohibition era, and selling alcohol is illegal. On stage a big band are in full force, trumpets and trombones kicking up a storm for those on the crowded dance floor that can keep up.
Suddenly the door slams open. It’s a police raid! Chaos; a bottle is smashed, people scream, tables are kicked over, and the less gallant gentlemen make a break for the side exits. The songstress at the microphone surveys the room, looks around at the musicians, nods and hauls on a large, incongruous, brass lever clearly labelled ‘Do Not Pull’. At the back of the stage a black, swirling vortex appears, growing rapidly to engulf all those on stage, whereupon it shrinks just as quickly to a tiny black dot, before winking out of existence. In the club, there’s silence for a few moments as everyone stares open-mouthed at the empty stage, before the fracas resumes.
“Great Gatsby vibe”
Meanwhile, in 2019, at a well-known music festival in Somerset a hip-hop duo performs to the crowds enjoying the summer sunshine. A black dot swells, and the whole ensemble are deposited unceremoniously into the middle of the gig. The rappers and chanteuse stare at each other, shrug and the whole ensemble launch into ‘Get Movin’, to a rapturous reception
Believe it or not, that’s the easiest way I could think of to give you a flavour of the frenetic, anachronistic joy that awaits you on listening to Metropolis, the second studio album from the fabulous Cut Capers. Whilst incorporating Swing into a modern context isn’t new, both Lily Allen and, to a greater extent, Robbie Williams have had a go, neither of them managed it so successfully. Big band jazz and fast paced rap (in English and Spanish, no less) aren’t natural bedfellows, but the Bristol-based nine-piece manage it effortlessly.
Like ‘Get Movin’, the opening track, ‘Wait Just A Minute’, ‘Elephant’ and ‘Feet off the Ground’ all have the Great Gatsby vibe turned up to the max, but, the Capers aren’t a herd of one-trick ponies, these songs are balanced with more soulful numbers, such as ‘Wait Just a Minute’, and ‘I Know’ reminiscent of eighties’ pop icons Sade and Swing Out Sister. There’s a very marketable sound here, which would fit perfectly behind some of the professional group dances on Strictly.
Growing up in the era of the gatefold sleeve vinyl records, it’s not often that I feel that CD artwork is worthy of a mention. However, the cartoon style cityscape on the front of Metropolis repays the study time. In it, you’ll find references to the titles within: See if you can spot them all.
Such an eclectic mix of musicians also throws up some odd comparisons: The spoken vocals on ‘Alright’ made me think of ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ by 90’s rave masters The Shamen, whilst the Spanish influences hark to the more chilled-out late-night Euro-club scene. The album ends perfectly with ‘One More Drink’, the solemn paced beginning of which reminded me of the street funeral scene in the late-lamented Roger Moore’s best Bond movie, Live and Let Die.
Importantly, this record isn’t just great fun to listen to, it also makes me really want to get out and see Cut Capers do their unique thing live. Catch them now, just in case a freak worm-hole in the space-time continuum drags them back to the roaring twenties.