Cut Copy – Zonoscope

Cut Copy – Zonoscope
Modular: 2011

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

★★★½☆
3.5 out of 5

5 thoughts on “Cut Copy – Zonoscope

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  1. Dan- Seeing them in Manchester will be awesome. I saw them here in NC in 2009 and they were fantastic. IGC or no IGC, it will be a dance party.

  2. Just peeped the interview. Two thoughts came to mind:
    1. Any musician could say that to justify emulating other artists or voices. It’s a lazy response, like Vanilla Ice saying, “I’m just another guy, reinterpreting Freddie Mercury’s bassline.” And to what aesthetic is he referring? Bad music is an aesthetic… If he means Cut Copy is more about paying homage to existing music for the sake of enjoyment rather than making their own, doesn’t that just make them a cover band?

    2. He presents this like Cut Copy’s sentiments regarding their closeness/likeness to their fans is exceptional. He goes on to say, “I guess a lot of artists feel a little bit uneasy about saying what their influences are. But we’ve always been happy to talk about it.” His modesty eats itself and becomes arrogance. It reminds me of the quote, “Don’t be so humble; you’re not that great.”

  3. Kara-Lis Coverdale|

    I take back the “fake” part.

    via p4k interview : “We don’t consider ourselves too far from a lot of our fans, or people like yourself who write about music. We’re not these hot musicians that do guitar solos like nobody else. Cut Copy is more about an aesthetic and reinterpreting the music we like within our own records.”

  4. Kara-Lis Coverdale|

    Enjoyed reading this. And agree. No-one likes a fake orphan child.

  5. Having read your review I couldn’t agree more with your feelings about their previous album In Ghost Colours. That album was so perfect it was always going to be difficult to follow up. Zonoscope is very different but I think come the Summer time it will be firmly lodged as a favourite of 2011. I’m going to see them in Manchester in a few weeks time, fingers crossed for a healthy dose of tracks from IGC.

    Great review.

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