Review Summary: Cut Copy begin to lose their color.
It’s never been that hard to make dance music. Be competent with a synthesizer, be able to craft a reasonably bouncy melody, and make sure that four on the floor bump absolutely kicks, and you have a fairly decent chance of being able to make those feet move and the dollars flow in. Music in the second half of the ‘00s could very well said to be overly saturated with acts looking to cash in on the electro war that “D.A.N.C.E.” fired the first shot in, something that makes the cover of Cut Copy’s third album Zonoscope
, New York City on the verge of being submerged by a massive waterfall, more than a bit ironic. But Cut Copy always seemed like they were playing electro less because it was in and more because, well, they were the best at it. In Ghost Colours
was a classic in the genre because it had that which most of its compatriots scoffed at, namely substance and a depth that rewarded multiple listens. On its surface, Zonoscope
is not that much different from what Cut Copy have staked their sound on. There’s a prevalence of synths and various bleeps and bloops that remind you the ‘80s never really died, Dan Whitford’s eternally optimistic, soulful tenor singing day-glo tenets like “all you need is a dream and a lover, too,” and hooks that don’t quit.
For all the similarities, though, Zonoscope
nevertheless seems like a simpler record. First single “Where I’m Going” is a wonderful slice of Beach Boys-esque pop, but little else. The dark soundscapes and edgy instrumentals that occasionally broke up In Ghost Colours
and made it such a fascinating journey are nixed, while otherwise solid electro pop tunes like “Pharaohs & Pyramids” and “Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat” are cheapened by sound effects and synthesizers that sound like they were recorded on an ancient Casio. Indeed, Zonoscope
is at its best where it strips things down to the bare bones of songwriting, something Whitford and company long ago proved masters of. The one-two punch of “Need You Now” and “Take Me Over” is a combo most electro bands would kill for; Cut Copy toss it off effortlessly and then mask those same superb pop sensibilities with weak effects and distracting melodies that take away from the central hooks on a song like “Blink And You’ll Miss The Revolution.” Then there will be a song like “This Is All We’ve Got,” all hazy vibes and gorgeous guitar, and you’ll question why they felt the need to add those awful bass squelches to “Corner of the Sky” or why they decided to make “Sun God” essentially a fifteen-minute rave wank fest.
Of course, it’s tough to fault Zonoscope
for sounding so dated right out of the box, because Cut Copy’s songwriting is really as strong as ever. Sure, there’s nothing as immediate as “Hearts on Fire” or as simply affecting as “Unforgettable Season,” but “Take Me Over” and “Alisa” are acceptable, if not fully satisfying, substitutes. The effortless transition that the drone of “Strange Nostalgia For The Future” brings to the cheesy bounce of “Blink And You’ll Miss The Revolution” and the post-punkish “This Is All We’ve Got” is the kind of bridge that regularly made In Ghost Colours
such a complete album. Zonoscope
is no less complete; rather, it seems like a lesser shade of its predecessor, the kind of album Cut Copy could make in their sleep but lacking that transcendent quality that so many similar bands swinging and missing. Great songs are a dime a dozen, and Cut Copy, frankly, are amassing a wealth of their own with tunes like the eleven here. It’s the great albums that are a little more elusive.