Disclaimer: For me, Cut Copy’ s sophomore album In Ghost Colours ranks among Dilla’s Donuts and LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver as one of the seminal electronic albums of the 2000’s. Moreover, it was one of those few albums that seeped into my own audio-biography to the point that I knew its sprawling vista of nostalgic futurisms, its heartbreakingly soft and unsettled transitions, its gossamer-pop choruses, like they were my own fingerprints. Any follow-up effort was arguably destined to hit my headphones as an appropriation of earlier seminal sounds. A fragment trying to build on an entity.
It certainly comes as no surprise, then, that my first Zonoscope listen was ornamented in eye rolls and personal notes marked by frustrated caps lock and hyperbolic question marks. For tracks “Alisa” and its successor “Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat”, I noted, “STRINGS AND GUITAR YES YES YES FINALLY, TRANSCENDING ITS OWN FORMULAIC POP CONSTRAINTS… But the relentlessly lame ad libs… The gloss… DISAFFECTED YUPPY TAMBOURINES– HALP.” And so it goes.
After a respite of wine and ungratified tweets, I returned to the album for a second go. This time, the cohesion shone through. “They are expanding their pop vocabulary,” I noted, “arguably in a bid for mainstream credibility. Chants. Tom Cruise in Ray Bans. The hipster’s Duran Duran. More confection, less direction. SO WHAT?”
And there, staring into the abyss of my iTunes library, a diminishing bottle of pinot noir, and a mental cloud of thesaurus-y four-syllable words, I found a lucid conclusion. There will never be another In Ghost Colours. There may never be another transition as hauntingly and naturally sincere as the one that bridges “We Fight For Diamonds” and “Unforgettable Season”. Cut Copy, in this moment, is imitating a blend of The Cure, New Order, [insert band tagged New Wave on last.fm], the train scene in Risky Business, the hair styles of Breakfast Club, and why the hell not, Deadmau5. It’ s not Cut Copy, fully realized. But it’s also not a project squandered.
The band’s true alchemy sparks most vividly in “Strange Nostalgia For The Future” and its sequential companion track, “This Is All We’ve Got”. The former draws from the lingering, melancholic feel of early Cut Copy and seamlessly unfolds unto “This Is All We’ve Got”, a track similarly laced in romantic, nomadic underpinnings and tangible longing. I would also say the same for track “Pharaohs and Pyramids” were it not for the painfully profound and relentlessly repeated line, “Loudspeakers sound like disco lights.”
And then, there is “Corner Of The Sky”, a track that says fuck it, house music is rad, and I love electronic bells and Afrika Bambaataa, and I’m just going to go in this completely new direction at the end of the goddamn album. It’ s not bad— but given Cut Copy’s previous feel for flow, it is a little discombobulating. Particularly the last twenty seconds, which seem to flirt with an air of seductive creative tension only to give way to “Sun God”, a smattering of synthesizers and juvenile lasciviousness brought to you by the line, “You’ve got to live, you’ve got to die, so what’ s the purpose of you and I?” Dan Whitford is suddenly a whispering electro-house tiger, as nature intended. Or not.
I love you so very much, Cut Copy. I will invariably love this album after a few PBRs in the summer time. I WILL DANCE AND WHIP MY HAIR. To be fair, you live in the Southern Hemisphere where it is indeed, currently summer. Maybe this is my bitter winter psyche talking. Maybe not. Regardless, I see you. Just stop trying to be the next Pet Shop Boys, stop trying to sound like the shining orphan child of 1988, and be Cut Copy. xo