Cut Copy’s 2008 album In Ghost Colours was a triumph of late-2000s dance-rock, combining strands of new wave, synth pop, disco, and French house into a glittering, streamlined display of how to make music that was equally adept at getting crowds moving in a club and breaking hearts over headphones late at night. It’s an understatement to say that the follow-up had a lot to live up to, and for the most part, Zonoscope is up to the challenge. There isn’t a single weak track to be found, and though could have easily done so with no side effects, the group didn’t just remake Ghost, they made some subtle alterations here and there to their approach. The opening track "Need You Now" is emblematic of the changes in the group’s sound. Dan Whitford's vocals are more out front, the synths are warmer sounding, and the overall sound is peppier and happier. Where Ghost was a late-night, rain-slicked city streets kind of album at heart, Zonoscope is more of a Technicolor, summer day kind of experience. The tropical drum fills on “Take Me Over,” the impossibly hooky chanted vocals and glam rock beat of “Where I’m Going,” the occasional acoustic guitar that pops up, and the rich vocal harmonies all provide a lightness that the group hadn’t really shown much before. When Cut Copy aren’t beaming sunshine straight out of the speakers, they can still conjure up thick clouds of electric melancholy, as on the brief but swooningly pretty "Strange Nostalgia for the Future" or the midtempo soft rock ballad “Hanging on Every Heartbeat.” They also show that the hazy, hard-edged shoegaze sound of “So Haunted” (from Ghost) was no fluke, as “This Is All We Got” and “Alisha” both sound like they could be early Ride singles (only with fewer guitars and more Xanadu-sounding synths). And their foray into vaguely political sloganeering on “Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution” would make Heaven 17 proud. The only thing that keeps Zonoscope from being the juggernaut that In Ghost Colours was, is that it lacks a song as drop-dead brilliant as “Hearts on Fire” (though “Where I’m Going” comes close) and it includes the clunky, somewhat corny-sounding “Corner of the Sky,” which comes off as a bit too Frankie Goes to Hollywood to stand up to the greatness that surrounds it. One tiny misstep doesn’t derail the album, though, and Zonoscope ends up being a very worthy successor to In Ghost Colours. Thanks to its beauty, warmth, and top-rate songwriting, Cut Copy remain atop the pile of dance-rock groups in 2011, right next to LCD Soundsystem.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra