Cut Copy, “Zonoscope”

I wasn’t expecting to anticipate, with any great need, this album.  I tried to like In Ghost Colours.  I know a lot of people loved that record.  It felt like a bad Pet Shop Boy album, without the political undertones.  Cut Copy dropped the first single from Zonoscope months back.  I ignored it for the most part.   There is a reason they release singles early.

Two years ago I was in Spain with my girlfriend and a friend.  We rented a car and I learned how to drive manual transmission from YouTube.  Three weeks later I was driving through the mountains in Spain on a 15 hour race from Nice to Madrid to catch a plane.  It was late, my friends were asleep, and I was on my own.

Spain is a gorgeous country and once you get away from the cities, the vistas along the highway are breathtaking.  In the dark of night the prospect of driving through a landscape you don’t know in a rented car in a country where you don’t exactly speak the language is terrifying.  There is this great long take in Godard’s Weekend.  It’s gigantic traffic jam, caused by a car wrapped around a tree.  The protagonists are crawling by this long line of stopped cars in a black cabriolet.  People are out of their cars, arguing, throwing a ball, being stuck in traffic.  There’s a horse and a cart.  It’s all I could think of as I drove – being that car wrapped around tree.

All I could see around me were little red lights.  For miles in either direction.  I may have been hallucinating, but I wasn’t.  Thousands of tiny red lights, suspended 70 feet in the air.  There was a pattern and they blinked on a regular schedule.  I can only assume that they were warning lights on the top of the wind turbines that make up a wind farms.  The countryside is lousy with wind farms along the highways in Spain and France.  They’re beautiful and graceful during the day.  At night they are silent and impossible.  It’s eerie.

The rental had a CD player and a radio.  We had picked up a few choice CDs at a truck stop in Portugal.  A random collection of American Soul.  A double disc of disco b-sides.  And the soundtrack to the Athens Olympics.  Radio would play English Language pop – though it only seemed to spin Girlfriend or 1901 by Phoenix.  At one point we purchased a battery-powered FM tuner for my Zune.   It didn’t work. For a good portion of that last drive, in an effort to keep myself awake, I spent some time trying to insert myself into what I assumed was a radio drama.

Zonoscope would have saved me.  It is the perfect soundtrack for the trip that summer.  A trip that started in Madrid, where I learned how to drive stick.  Through Portugal, where I failed to retain my knowledge of driving stick.  Then to Barcelona where I didn’t stall once.  Onto Paris (a 15 hour side trip for street crepes and EuroDisney) and then Lyon and Nice.  Finally to Monaco.  Then the aforementioned 110 mph drive through the night back to Madrid.  Zonoscope is good driving music.  Especially driving toward a sunset or in the deep of the night.  It’s a little European, which is odd because they’re from Australia.  It’s also a little 80’s.  Which makes it even more European.

Zonoscope is light and energetic, especially in its first half.  Need You Now and Take Me Over and Where I’m Going are going to be spectacular crowd pleasers at the summer festivals this year.  You’ll have thousands of people screaming “yeah, yeah, yeah” as Dan Whitford holds his microphone toward the crowd.  I’s not all strong.  Strange Nostalgia for the Future is an unfortunate pit stop that rolls into everything but the chorus of This Is All We’ve Got. The music recovers after that, moving into more glorious 80’s fusion.  Once the more mainstream stations pick up on this record (and they will, with Arcade Fire winning a Grammy) we won’t be able to get away from Zonoscope. Or the awesome album art.


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