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Cut Copy


[Modular; 2011]

By ; February 8, 2011 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Cut Copy’s third full-length album, Zonoscope, is an easy record to pick apart and a tough album to enjoy, which is strange considering that In Ghost Colors, the group’s prior career-making release, was pleasurable at the most basic of levels. Go back to In Ghost Colors today and notice that it is not an album that makes you wonder why it is good or if you should enjoy it. It is almost impossible not to like with its flu-like infectious melodies and danceable beats, with just enough trashiness throughout to keep a smile planted on your face, at least for an hour-or-so.

Not Zonoscope. At over an hour in length, it feels very much like every second of the time that is spent listening to it. This never becomes clearer than during album-closer “Sun God,” which drags on for an infuriating fifteen minutes. After ten songs of awesome peaks and snoozer valleys, I’ve never wanted an album to end more than at about minute ten of “Sun God.” But nothing on the rest of the album is as abrasive as this tune, which jams on and on without going anywhere. In fact, the album even contains a couple of the best pop songs of the year.

Towering above its brother tracks is album opener “Need You Now,” the best album-opening track in recent memory. The cut involves the epic build (and deep vocals) of The National but with a pure emotional intensity that is singer Dan Whitford’s very own. The voice-cracks at the song’s peak are completely unexpected, which is why it is so damn memorable and, well, special. Zonoscope‘s other big left turn, the Brian Wilson-y sing-along “Where I’m Going” is nearly as affecting. But where “Need You Now” is all roaring climax,”Where I’m Going” showcases another new strength: sunny-day travel song. The handclaps and “yeahs” that move the jam are inciting, bringing the listener out of whatever shell they might retreat to and pulling them onto the same communal highway.

Other moments on the album that could have been highlights fall a little short of the intended effects. Single “Take Me Over” is catchy enough, but just too disco-light. And as I rack my brain for why this, and many other tracks, seem fine enough while listening but wind-up as forgettable filler, I have come to the following conclusion: they are not trashy enough. I have never wanted to hear a break-beat more in my life. Some heavy bass. Hard drum pounds. Maybe even some of that weird, shaky dub-step stuff. But the majority of the tracks are moved by snare taps, hand-claps, bouncy keys and stray harmony parts. Look at the recent LCD Soundsystem record, which flirted with some of the same disco tools, and see how this can be done effectively. Zonoscope lacks all abrasion, but you need the harsh sounds to make the soft comforting tones feel like a retreat. Without, what you get is just dull.

Yes, there are other keepers on Zonoscope. “Blink And You’ll Miss A Revolution” takes 80’s synth-pop and actually seems like it knows where it is going, playing like one of the better moments from Hot Chip. “This Is All We’ve Got” is, miraculously, organic sounding, with drums that sound like a human being made them. But pick a song that has not been mentioned and you’ll receive a big, fat shrug. Word is that the album was the result of jam sessions rather than straightforward songwriting and that seems to be a major factor or why the album doesn’t resonate. Sure Zonoscope is splattered with stumbled-upon gems, but a little more editing and maybe some more focused songwriting sessions could have really brought Zonoscope into focus. I mean, they named their album Zonoscope. Clearly some more brain in their brainstorming was in order.


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