Cuffed Up – ‘Cuffed Up’

By Aaron Jackson

Forming at the beginning of 2019 after Sapphire Jewell and Ralph Torrefranca met at a party and bonded through their affinity for the UK punk scene, Cuffed Up have wasted no time in making enough noise to raise a few eyebrows. The LA four piece, completed by Vic Ordonez on bass and Joe Liptock on drums, released double A-side ‘Small Town Kid’ and ‘Mother / Father’ at the end of 2019 to great acclaim. So impressive were their efforts that they landed a deal with Hassle Records, and announced the physical release of their self-titled debut EP.

The EP starts on the front foot with lead single ‘Small Town Kid’. Torrefranca explains that ‘Small Town Kid’ is “about a punk kid who moves from a small city, with ambitions bigger than his own ego. Rightfully, the big city ends up eating him alive but he learns to love the struggle and manages to find humility in his mistakes.” While this isn’t a new narrative, it’s one that feels true to Cuffed Up’s aesthetic; the song comes into its own with a chorus in which Jewell and Torrefranca’s vocals work in tandem, each complementing the other’s raw and honest delivery.

‘French Exit’ also stands out thanks to the vocal performance from Jewell. A worthy love letter to legends of the genre Sonic Youth, ‘French Exit’ demonstrates the band’s ability to shift down a gear and explore a subtler, more withdrawn dynamic. Cymbals wash atop of an ambling guitar riff, bolstered by a steady bassline to create a gloomy yet cathartically nostalgic atmosphere.

Any cobwebs left over from the previous number are promptly blown away by the pulsing drums and stabbing guitars that introduce ‘Danger, Danger’, where the grit and gravel of Torrefranca’s vocals will make you sit up and listen. Similarly, closing number ‘Mother / Father’ sees Cuffed Up release the shackles and indulge in the louder side of punk music that makes it so fun to listen to – however, they remain melodic and measured, showcasing a mature approach to songwriting that belies their relative infancy.

For Cuffed Up, where 2020 will have largely consisted of remote band practices over Zoom, 2021 presents a year packed with potential. Their songs deserve to be experienced live and in person. Once this happens, there is no reason this year won’t see their already admirable rise continue.

AARON JACKSON

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