Modular, 2011

The bait and switch. It’s a classic ploy where you advertise one product but deliver another. Cut Copy have employed a version of this for their third long player Zonoscope baiting us with two singles that aren’t representative of the album as a whole. Released mid 2010 “Where I’m Going” indicated the band were going for a straight ahead indie pop direction, somewhere between The Kinks and The Chills, full as it was of twangy riffs, a big sing-a-long chorus and a simple companionship theme. Then later that year “Take Me Over”, with its “Down Under” thieving bass and percussion, was a daft(punk) summer pop song. The remainder of Zonoscope is for the most part the most dance-centric Cut Copy has been since their sampledelic debut EP one decade ago.

Before people take issue with the Department of Consumer Affairs citing a breach in the Trade Practices Act we should examine what the switch has left us with. Current single and album opener “Need You Now” is an atypical Cut Copy track, a six minute slow burn epic that rewards repeated listens with lead singer/songwriter/producer Dan Whitford delivering a strong vocal. “Pharaohs & Pyramids” begins a batch of songs that combine tribal house with synth pop with mixed results also starting a half baked Egyptian-cum-apocalyptic thread, begun with the fantastical cover art.

“This is All We’ve Got” (the album’s original title perhaps?) is slice of catchy rock, mining Phil Spector’s wall of sound production and “Leader of the Pack”’s drum pattern while “Alisa” combines inventive guitar lines with twinkling keyboards and a huge string soaked chorus, a strong candidate for the next single. As good as they are, both are hampered from having Whitford’s vocals buried in the mix, perhaps to disguise the “written on the back of a postage stamp” lines, as while Whitford is a compelling melodicist he’s a lousy lyricist. Songwriters like Martin Gore, Neil Tennant and Vince Clarke showed they could have the depth of any rock poet. Dan was obviously too busy cribbing their synth lines to also study their lyric sheets.

This vacuousness reaches a nadir on fifteen minute album closer “Sun God” which essentially boils down to “Please, please, please won’t you give your love/Are you going to me your love?/Your love won’t be enough” in the verse and then a shouted “You’ve got to live!/You’ve got to die!/So what’s the purpose of you and I?” in the chorus. Again musically its pretty good at least for the first seven minutes before getting lost in its own epic house arse. Thus in essence Zonoscope is a missed opportunity. The moments of brilliance are hampered by mixed production, terrible lyrics, schizophrenic songs styles and a nonsensical overall theme. Whatever side of the indie-dance camp Cut Copy want to plant themselves in, even if it’s on the fence, some semblance of care and thought into those tenants of a pop album would be appreciated next time, lest we really do contact Consumer Affairs Victoria.