Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Cut Copy - Zonoscope
01. Need You Now
02. Take Me Over
03. Where I’m Going
04. Pharaohs & Pyramids
05. Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution
06. Strange Nostalgia for the Future
07. This is All We’ve Got
09. Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat
10. Corner of the Sky
11. Sun God
Cut Copy are Australian, and it's summer in Australia right now. So if it feels a little weird listening to an album of euphoric, starry-eyed dance-rock on earbuds while you're scraping snow-grit off your windshield, keep in mind: Somewhere in the world, someone is probably road-tripping to a swimming hole with this album playing, or eating a popsicle, or playing catch with their dogs while it blasts out of a car stereo or nearby boombox. By the time summer arrives for those of us in the northern hemisphere, we'll know these songs by heart and be able to sing along loudly.
Back when this group released 2004's Bright Like Neon Love, the idea of backing dazed, introverted indie pop with a utopian house thump was still relatively novel. And though that sound has since inspired legions of followers and copycats, still no one does it quite like Cut Copy themselves. 2008's steamrolling In Ghost Colours was an album of anthems; tracks like "Hearts on Fire" and "Lights and Music" were transcendent pop that stuck in heads for days. But Zonoscope is something different. It's an album-album that puts serious work into movements and transitions, and it works best when you hear it all in one chunk. That doesn't mean it's Cut Copy's OK Computer; it just means that the group has put more work into building a vast, rolling landscape rather than a series of peaks.
Zonoscope opens with a blast of woozy ecstasy in the form of "Need You Now", the sort of track where you don't even realize how much tension the group has built up until they release it, and ends with "Sun God", a marathon 15-minute groove that slowly morphs into a tranced-out Giorgio Moroder thud. In between those two tracks, Cut Copy build a long-form piece of work that moves between genres and ideas and moods without ever sacrificing its dancefloor momentum.
"Take Me Over" works in a bouncy hook from Fleetwood Mac's mid-80s party-staple "Everywhere" and gives a sly nod to their countrymen Men at Work, turning down-moments into playful exercises in irresistible cheeseball melody. "Where I'm Going" is a twinkly, faraway sigh of a song that could pass for Washed Out if it wasn't for the titanic Gary Glitter drum-stomp powering it. And "Pharaohs & Pyramids" may be the greatest thing here; it uses the band's melodic gifts and the sense of yearning in frontman Dan Whitford's voice and applies them to a classic Chicago house anthem, deploying its keyboard blips, synth-strings, and programmed cowbells at the exact right moments, building into a climactic cresting swoop.
Compared to the last two albums, Zonoscope has precious little guitar crunch, which makes it hard to even call Cut Copy a dance-rock band anymore. And that's for the best-- not just because that combination seems like a less thrilling prospect in 2011 than perhaps it once did, but also because Cut Copy have the architecture of dance music down perfectly and the confidence to execute the genre's moves with absolute precision. Even in the dead of winter, Zonoscope does its job beautifully. Imagine how it'll sound when you don't have to layer up to go outside...www.pitchfork.com