One of the best things about Cut Copy’s breakthrough 2008 masterpiece In Ghost Colours was its unwavering warmth. Each glimmering, gargantuan club anthem sported real sincerity under its synth riffs. You could wrap yourself in their beats and beauty on many a cold night. Three years later, at the time of year when those coldest of nights are yet again upon us, the Aussie quartet (recently expanded from a trio) have returned like another early Spring with the sprawling, sparkling Zonoscope.
Very much a mirror to its predecessor, Zonoscope is an album’s album to match Colours‘ scintillating singles. Songs breathe and move at a more deliberate but no less danceable pace. They ebb and flow rather than peak and valley, and they take their sweet time doing it. Woozy, wistful opener “Need You Now” is a divine demonstration of delayed gratification. It patiently pulses for close to five minutes before giving way to electronic ecstasy a la past highlight “Out There on the Ice.” The effect is almost Tantric.
With the listener suitably seduced, the record moves into more instant and familiar pleasure with previously released singles “Need You Now” (the one that sounds like Men at Work) and “Where I’m Going” (the one that sounds like Fleetwood Mac) before a double dose of disco comes in “Pharaohs and Pyramids” and “Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution.” All sighed vocals and bubbling-to-barnstorming beats, these songs do Hercules and Love Affair better than Andy Butler himself is doing nowadays, and go a long way to eliminating the need for the latter half of Cut Copy’s dance-rock title.
They’re not quite ready to relinquish that yet, though, as evidenced by back-end standout “Alisa,” which rides high on a krautrock beat, sun-soaked guitar haze and arguably the most surging chorus the band has pulled off since “So Haunted.” Much of Zonoscope‘s second half trades synth-pop for shoegaze. While not lacking in quality, it does continue the group’s tradition of oddly top-heavy records.
That said, it’s well worth getting to the epic finish. “Sun God” aptly plays like an attempt to commune with a higher power. Fifteen minutes in length, not a second is wasted. It’s a hot, hybrid marathon of Moroder and the Madchester scene worthy of The Stone Roses.
Is Zonoscope perfect? Not quite. But perfection is overrated. If its apocalyptic cover art is anything to go by, Cut Copy aren’t too excited by the idea of finding or creating sonic Utopia. They’re much more interested in the journey to places unknown, and they’ve made a very thrilling, fulfilling journey for us indeed, occasional detours and all.