Britpop revivalism. Depending on your point of view, that’s a phrase that’ll either have you writhing in pleasure or make you want to claw your own eyes out. Oscar Scheller (who decides only to go by the pretty much unsearchable moniker Oscar) seemingly isn’t afraid to take on this divide. Peddling a reworked brand of Britpop and brandishing his boy-next-door charms, his debut album Cut and Paste attempts to drag the 90’s phenomenon into the 21st Century.
At least, that’s the theory. Opener and single ‘Sometimes’ is unabashedly retro, sounding like Blur at their most mid-90s, all wonky synths and jagged guitar riffs that ape Graham Coxon. The most original aspect of the track is Oscar himself, as he wraps his classically-trained baritone around wistful highs and contemplative lows. So it’s really a shame that he doesn’t give his unique vocals anything particularly meaningful to sing. The chorus of ‘Sometimes’ sees Oscar singing “sometimes, only when I look at you/ I know the things I want to do,” a radio-friendly couplet that leaves you hankering for something a little more explicit. Good Britpop always had some bite or at least attempted to have some kind of social commentary embedded in the lyrics but, like here, Oscar’s lyrics are often painfully shallow.
This doesn’t improve as the record continues, with Oscar continuing to give weight to the theory that he was very much aiming for the teenage girl market. On ‘Fifteen’ he attempts a kind of over-the-top romanticism but lines like “then I see your face and I want to die” just come across as juvenile. On ‘Breaking My Phone,’ he successfully blends jangly melodies and almost grungy, garage riffs into a fairly angsty number, but the chorus (where he sings “I just keep breaking my phone/ After I’ve spoken to you”) comes across as less sexually and emotionally frustrated and more bratty. ‘Beautiful Words’ contains a really catchy chopped synth that stands apart from the indie populating the rest of the album, but again is somewhat ironically marred by the lyrics, which see Oscar longing for “beautiful words returning.”
What makes this even more frustrating is the fact that Oscar does know how to construct a decent pop song. This is perhaps best shown on ‘Only Friend,’ a track that tones down the riffs and employs very pretty swirling electronica. Despite this, Marika Hackman’s talents are wasted on the song; she sounds lethargic in her own verse and is sometimes all but drowned out in the chorus’s harmonies. ‘Daffodil Days’ is deeply reminiscent of 80’s alt-indie. Its jangly guitar riff is eerily similar to the one used on The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’ and is, perhaps resultantly, an exuberant slice of retro-leaning number that’s wonderfully infectious. Closer ‘Gone Forever’ treads a muted electropop vein, ramping up the melancholia with a delicate xylophone that’s curiously touching. It’s easily the best track here.
Cut and Paste is, as its title suggests, a collage of musical ideas that takes Britpop and attempts to remodel it for a contemporary audience. For the most part, the music on display shows that Scheller has a talent for piecing together a classic three-minute pop song. It’s unfortunate that his lyrics are so superficial you’re left feeling unsatisfied.