Preview Review (Cut Copy’s Zonoscope)

It feels like forever that we’ve been waiting for Aussie band Cut Copy to put out another LP after In Ghost Colours. A veritable century, even, when it’s only been two years: their sophomore success was released in 2008. Two years is not a long period of time during the average human lifespan, but when we are talking about music careers, perhaps it is just long enough to build up enough anticipation that provides a challenge for the new album to overcome. Long build-up after a highly regarded record can be a problem. Just ask Justin Timberlake.

I have to admit, my snap first conclusion after listening to Zonoscope was, “Not as good as In Ghost Colours!” Thank goodness first impressions are not always lasting ones. Even though following up In Ghost Colours would be a lot for any electropop band to live up to, Zonoscope does succeed, and on its own merits. While each song on In Ghost Colours relentlessly slingshots you into the next with synthesized, danceable grooves and builds satisfaction not just from the individual catchiness of each song but the zip of the whole, the songs on Zonoscope stand apart from one another. What Cut Copy does is build upon your expectations for their music – the rave-worthy beats and the 80s woosh- to eventually set the band free to float into a whole new stratosphere.

Cut Copy guitarist Tim Hoey has said that the band found themselves “jamming” for the first time – said jamming produced their first, fantastic single “Take Me Over”. With other tracks they embraced a do-it-yourself attitude, holing up to record with some home-made instruments and percussion made from pots and pans and a used mattress or two. Also heavily influential to the band was a very specific synthesizer that had its heyday in the 1980s, the Fairlight CMI. To top it off, a few tracks feature an actual choir, recorded with engineer Ben Allen and a vocal ensemble in Atlanta. Cut Copy’s electropop is clearly filtered through slightly different sounds this time around, and they seem a whole lot looser.

One of my personal songs on the album is “Hanging onto Every Heartbeat”, a track with a languorous start and accompanying verse full of warm guitars, but a sufficiently spacey chorus. Formerly an early preview track for the album, “Where I’m Going” now finds a welcome, jangly sing-song niche. “Corner of the Sky” has an infectiousness that I can only describe as “robotic knock”, and the album concludes with “Sun God”, an epic slab of a song clocking in at just over 15 minutes that manages to overwhelm but never outstay its welcome. “Pharaohs & Pyramids” might be the real standout though, with its opening echo of a voice affirming “all thoughts… all thoughts”. It sounds like Cut Copy is beaming in from outer space, or perhaps 1985, or perhaps a super-groovy future, or maybe all three places at once.

Evolution is the necessary lifeblood of a good, lasting band. I can’t fault Cut Copy for shaking off the glittery dust of ghost colors, especially when the result is still good pop music. I hope you won’t either, because Zonoscope is a record that deserves many replays.

Download “Where I’m Going”. You can buy the entire album Feb. 8th via their label Modular. How sick is the cover art? Pretty sick, I think.

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One Comment to “Preview Review (Cut Copy’s Zonoscope)”

  1. I only knew one or two songs from In Ghost Colours and had considered checking out Zonoscope, but I wasn’t thrilled with the (beginnings of) songs I heard on Hype Machine. But then I came across “Need You Now,” and I’ve found myself listening to it over and over again. Your review confirms that I should, indeed, give this album a chance, or at the very least check out the songs you gave special mention to.

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