Even disco-rock needs solid beats. Contra Tom Breihan, Cut Copy should think about songs as much as they think about albums. In Ghost Colours‘ “So Haunted” burrowed its way into my head in spring 2008. An unexpectedly violent intro guitar, stacked 10cc harmonies, elegiac instrumental fadeout, and a chorus that sure sounded like “Get so horny that I misunderstood tonight” — these guys understood the prime tenet of New Order’s legacy, which is to infuse banality with sublimity. That’s the way love works, right? The rest of the album was aural gauze: “Lights and Music” was a bass line in search of a warm body to press against.
Trancier and dance-ier, Zonoscope boasts one superb album track called “Alisa” which almost rivals “So Haunted.” The band has gotten exceptionally skilled behind the mixing board: note how the sparkly keyboard fills in the chorus mesh with the harmonies. “Need You Now” isn’t, alas, a cover of Lady Antebellum’s magisterial hit of the same name, and although its dynamics — a steady Moroder-esque throb that builds to a nice crescendo — are suitable for the dance floor, too many tracks on Zonoscope hint at subtext at the expense of commensurate musical details. It helps if you and the singer and simpatico. At its worst Zonoscope sounds like the awkwardly coiffed Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twin singing in Simple Minds.
For some listeners this is a good thing. I’m tempted into overrating this album; it’s the sort of thing that sounds heavenly after a few glasses of wine. But I have friends who overrate Movement and Power, Corruption, and Lies too.