By William Ruben Helms
Indie rock superstars and critical darlings, Cut Copy started from some rather humble beginnings – the creative project of Melbourne, Australia-based DJ and graphic designed Dan Whitford in 2001. As a solo project, Whitford released the single “1981” and an EP titled, I Thought of Numbers before he recruited bandmates Tim Hoey, Mitchell Scott and their original drummer, Bennett Foddy in 2003. As a quartet they released their first full-length album
By 2004, they released their first full-length album, Bright Like Neon Love, which garnered a lot of attention as they started their first international tour in 2005, playing gigs with bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and Daft Punk. 2008 marked the release of In Ghost Colours. Pitchfork, which is known to be particularly tough – and well, snarky – considered the album, their fourth best of 2008; Metacritic, the website that assigns a normalized rating out of 100 from reviews of mainstream critics, ranked the album pretty well, giving it a 79. All well and good, if (and only if) you care about what critics have to say. At the end of the day, it’s about what a song, an album or a particular artist’s work makes you feel and think – and how a song or an album can manage to define you and your life.
I doubt many of you reading this would say that there wasn’t a song or an album that became an intimate part of your life, and that comforted you in a time of need or reminded you of a loved one. Although I got into In Ghost Colours late last year, it’s an album that immediately resonated with me on several levels and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. Simply put, it’s full of the sweaty energy of rock shows in basements and of nightclubs, of restless, youthful energy, and the ecstasy of being hopelessly, madly, desperately in love. Musically, the album sprints by quicker than you think but the arrangements are densely layered and on repeated listens reveals something different every single time.
After the massive success of In Ghost Colours among critics and fans, Dan Whitford spent months working on rough synth and vocal skeletal versions of songs with the idea of reworking and revising the band’s sound. Whitford has been quoted as saying that the band wanted to go for a more tribal sound, inspired by visions of a tropical jungle. What you’ll immediately recognize on Zonoscope is that many of the songs feel stripped down to pulsating bass, shimmering snyth lines and more four on the floor tempos – much like early 80s disco pop. It should be no surprise that the synth line in “Take Me Over” may sound a little bit like the synth lines off Madonna’s first album – think of a song like “Holiday” and you’ll see what I mean. Or how much “Pharaohs and Pyramids” and “Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution” sound incredibly like Yaz. “Sun God” the longest song on the album is yet another certified club banger. Seriously, play these songs on a decent set of earphones or through a good stereo set up – the songs thump and bang to life. “Strange Nostalgia for the Future” and “This Is All We Got” both sound as though they could have possibly been on Colours as it sticks to mostly guitar, bass, drums and synths for floating, psychedelic effect.
However, as great as it sounds, Zonoscope suffers from several glaring weaknesses. I don’t think Whitford could ever go down as one of the best lyricists of our generation but some of the lyrics on this effort just sound incredibly dumb and fall flat. The material on the album just didn’t immediately capture me the first time like their previous effort, and I think it’s because it’s sounds too much like the 80s New Wave and pop music that inspired the band to make music in the first place. There are songs I really dig on the album and in fact, Zonoscope is a good album – the sad thing is that it’s not a great album. In my mind it’s one of the better albums I’ve heard in a fairly disappointing year of releases but I can’t say that it’s the best album I’ve heard this year.
Release Date February 8, 2011
1. Need You Now
2. Take Me Over
3. Where I’m Going
4. Pharaohs and Pyramids
5. Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution
6. Strange Nostalgia for the Future
7. This Is All We’ve Got
9. Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat
10. Corner of the Sky
11. Sun God