eep Cuts isn’t just a clever play on The Knife’s name. It’s also an inadvertent tell to the Swedish duo’s misdirectional mischief.
In the parlance of hoary 70s classic rock and 90s alterna-lame radio, “deep cuts” is a desperate-to-be-an-insider’s term that indicates the deejay will spin non-hit album filler from your favorite dinosaurs, old and new. Thank/blame the concept the next time you hear “That’s the Way” instead of “Stairway to Heaven”, or “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” instead of “Black” (which The Knife sorta accidentally covers, to put us full circle).
The idea is that “deep cuts” will afford you a better sense of the artist’s scope and breadth than you’d receive from just a cursory listen to their chart material. Nowhere of late has this theory been more dramatically, insiduously proven than in the case of The Knife.
In some parallel universe not so horribly different from our own, “Heartbeats” could very well be a smash, and in fact it’s been spotted near the top of many a popcrit’s end-of-year list (mine included). A boisterous but conscience-bitten paen to chemical romance, “Heartbeats” has been likened to Bjork and Siouxsie because of Karin Dreijer’s vocal predilections, when in fact it’s actually just a wonderfully icy New Wave electro-pop tune that’s both redemptive ("to call for hands of above / to lean on") and rueful ("you knew the hand of a devil").
“Heartbeats” is also conveniently the leadoff on Deep Cuts, and it couldn’t be a clearer cipher if they’d called it “Move Ya Body”. After that early peak of accessibility, the remainder of Deep Cuts resolves itself into an incredibly heated contest, specifically to determine which of tracks 2-17 is the most psychosexually problematic and unreservedly fearsome.
Creditable nominees include the briefly assaultive electro-thrash of “The Cop” and the coital moans of “Is it Medicine”. Or perhaps you’d prefer “Rock Classics”, where Dreijer intones “I could fuck your brains out” like she’d auditioned to play Nico in the most somnambulistic porno of all time. Or maybe it’s “Hangin’ Out”, in which Olof Dreijer distortedly bellows “I keep my dick hangin’ out of my pants”. Did I mention the Dreijers are bro and sis? I mean, I like to do South Park routines with my sister Melodie from time to time, but this is all a bit much.
Nonetheless, my own private nightmare is undoubtedly “She’s Having a Baby”. Against a delicate musical backdrop that sounds like Damien’s mobile, Mr. Dreijer moans like an emotionally shattered eunuch (is there any other kind?) about how he wasn’t told his ex-girl is knocked-up, wordlessly cooing after the second line just to ratchet up the skin-crawl factor a good 15%.
Wait, where are you going? Come back, I forgot to tell you the most important thing: there’s steel drums! Lots of ‘em! Especially on the scarily seductive “Pass This On”, where Ms. Dreijer professes to be “in love with your brother” (erm, shouldn’t that be “my” brother?). Of course, there’s also pitch-altered choral response that sounds like a choir of damned children, but seriously, there’s steel drums!
While we’re at it, don’t miss out on the wonderfully low-rent hi-NRG technics of “Listen Now” either, or the early-80s Talking Heads white-funk of “Got 2 Let U”, or the suspiciously placid instrumental “Behind the Bushes” (and tell me that melody doesn’t sound like Ed Vedder’s outro on “Black”).
These deep cuts don’t just reveal a poptastic talent only hinted at on “Heartbeats”, they also herald the arrival of a bro-sis duo even more dysfunctional than the Fiery Furnaces. That’s more than you can say for Stealer’s Wheel. Seriously, “Stuck in the Middle With You” is all you need there.