Efficient and tunable absorption is essential for a variety of applications, such as designing controlled-emissivity surfaces for thermophotovoltaic devices, tailoring an infrared spectrum for controlled thermal dissipation and producing detector elements for imaging. Metamaterials based on metallic elements are particularly efficient as absorbing media, because both the electrical and the magnetic properties of a metamaterial can be tuned by structured design. So far, metamaterial absorbers in the infrared or visible range have been fabricated using lithographically patterned metallic structures, making them inherently difficult to produce over large areas and hence reducing their applicability. Here we demonstrate a simple method to create a metamaterial absorber by randomly adsorbing chemically synthesized silver nanocubes onto a nanoscale-thick polymer spacer layer on a gold film, making no effort to control the spatial arrangement of the cubes on the film. We show that the film-coupled nanocubes provide a reflectance spectrum that can be tailored by varying the geometry (the size of the cubes and/or the thickness of the spacer). Each nanocube is the optical analogue of a grounded patch antenna, with a nearly identical local field structure that is modified by the plasmonic response of the metal's dielectric function, and with an anomalously large absorption efficiency that can be partly attributed to an interferometric effect. The absorptivity of large surface areas can be controlled using this method, at scales out of reach of lithographic approaches (such as electron-beam lithography) that are otherwise required to manipulate matter on the nanoscale.