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CUFFS - Privilege


It’s borderline criminal that I haven’t got around to writing a review of this single until now. First of all, for those who were wondering, CUFFS is the band that ties the previously-reviewed Four Eyes for my favorite contemporary Boston-area outfit. Technically hailing from Cambridge, the band is made up of a veritable who’s who of Northeastern indie popstars fronted by the inimitable Andrew Churchman, formerly of Pants Yell! He is joined by fellow ol’ Yell!er Casey Keenan on drums, guitarist Martin Pavlinic of Reports, and Big Troubles’ Ian Drennan. I’ve been a fan of these guys since Andrew’s solo demos of four tunes popped up on Bandcamp, and was stoked to see one of them, “Privilege,” end up as the A-side of their debut 7”. Where the initial version of this song swung easily through the verses, riding the pleasant, buzzy warmth of Andrew’s fourtrack, this recording (captured by Animal Hospital’s Kevin Micka) jumps and writhes. The sped-up rhythmic hits meet a treble-y lead that swaps arpeggios for strangled fuzz between earnest lyrics about the uncertain futures of youths attending upscale private schools and summering in Europe. It’s somewhat reassuring to hear the interlocking perma-solos going atonally AWOL over these lyrics to become the audible nod to the contradiction and ensuing frustration hinted at by the speaker. Some of the caterwauling riffage almost reminds me of later Pavement or Built to Spill at times. B-side “Archer” sees CUFFS laying down a driving intro that only lets up on the throttle for a couple laid-back verses. These highlight the neck-pickup jangle present in some of my favorite PY! tunes of old while also featuring some surfy Girls-esque treble guitar. The bass and drums really hold it down for Andrew’s signature softspoken vocals here, and it’s not too long before the layered, seat-of-your-pants leads pop in to wreak a little havoc between lyrics. CUFFS pickup the slack and run with it for a bookend outro, finishing up a terrific debut single in style. Grab this limited edition 7” with hand-screened covers at shows, via Ride the Snake’s website or from Slumberland while you can. CUFFS! (Ride the Snake, 2011)