Aussie Band Steals Tricks From Your Parent’s Record Collection

By Tanner Cook

Cut Copy
Zonoscope
Modular Recordings

These days, every country seems to have its banner synth-rock band: America has LCD Soundsystem, France has Phoenix and Australia has Cut Copy, the project of DJ/ songwriter Dan Whitford (think James Murphy with an Aussie accent).

Cut Copy’s newest release, Zonoscope, is the band’s most ambitious work yet, taking the usual ’80s influences (Duran Duran, New Order) and blending them seamlessly with modern pop sensibilities.

The band has always taken cues from the Reagan era — as evidenced on previous releases, such as 2008’s In Ghost Colours — but they’ve never been this cohesive.

Cut Copy are relentless with the time-warping track after track. “Take Me Over” unabashedly cops a few hooks from Men At Work’s 1981 jam “Down Under” (just not the signature flute) — though with the addition of extra “oohs” and percussion, they avoid the expected pastiche.

The deep vocals of “Blink And You’ll Miss A Revolution” sound sort of like Oingo Boingo, but synth glockenspiel, of all things, adds a modern, creative touch. Plus, the songs, filled with more melodic background harmonies and a rollicking drum loop, are pure fun.

Many songs rely on hypnotic build-ups and breakdowns. “Need You Now” kicks off the album with the perfect climb: Atmospheric hums give way to drum loops and cowbell, while some synthesizer shimmers into the introduction of Whitford’s wistful vocals. All this means that by the time the track reaches its chorus, you’re already in dance-floor heaven.

As Zonoscope’s ’80s dream comes to a close, Cut Copy deviates the most from the throwback formula. Fifteen-minute album ender “Sun God” starts off like your standard dance pop, but suddenly switches gears to psychedelia. Drifting away into a long instrumental, atmospheric outro, it’s the group’s most expansive work to date.

At the core of nearly every track on Zonoscope is a deep reverence for past musical heroes. Cut Copy take hooks (sometimes literally) from their icons, but pile on enough instruments and sing-along verses to break from the synth-rock pack. (8/10)

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