There’s nothing on this effort that has the instant wow factor. ‘Take Me Over’, the first single released last November, is likeable enough but at its worst has whispers of Men at Work’s ‘Down Under’ with a synth hangover. However, the hordes will no doubt be kicking up their heels and dancing to it like they just don’t care at festivals this summer. This is synthpop for the masses - enjoyable but not expected to cause any seismic waves on the dance scene, either. Speaking of waves, Beach Boys-style harmonies and guitar progressions feature prominently in ‘Where I’m Going’; while the shouted ‘yeahs!’ peppered throughout are a little unsettling on first listen, this song also has mainstream appeal.
Other successful tracks are the most straightforward ones. In ‘Pharoahs and Pyramids’, fun, up-tempo beats frolic in harmony with Dan Whitford’s melodic vocals. ‘Need You Now’, the opening track of the album, begins with a synth build-up for over a minute before Whitford’s voice comes in. It’s a nice way to start an album, albeit like a strange lullaby with the opening line ‘hush darling, don’t you cry / ‘cos they’re never gonna reach you, never gonna reach you…’ that turns into a tender call to a faraway lover (‘though I’m running baby, but I need you now / though I’m going crazy, but I need you now’) with shimmery synths.
‘Blink And You’ll Miss A Revolution’ begins with industrial vibrations but eases effortlessly into a memorable marimba groove likely to cause spontaneous moonwalking and vogueing. (Think about it. Everyone remembers ‘Axel F’ from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. Right?) The beats in ‘Corner Of The Sky’ are as relentless as those in LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Sound Of Silver’, the difference being Whitford’s voice is melodic, like you’re tuned into heaven’s radio station.
More difficult are tracks like ‘Strange Nostalgia For The Future’, with compressed synth action and unintelligible sighing. While this is the shortest track on the album (barely over two minutes), you’re left wondering if smoking something would have enhanced the experience. Or maybe help in understanding the point of the song. Excessive echoing also plagues ‘This Is All We’ve Got’, which will either give you a headache or expand your mind. Points are given to Cut Copy for the squealing guitars in ‘Alisa’, but the song is otherwise forgettable. Similarly, ‘Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat’ and its sci-fi effects sound pretty cool, but the vocals are lacklustre.
While most dance music fans wouldn’t bat an eye at a track topping out at over fifteen minutes, the album closer ‘Sun God’ tries your patience. The track is an accurate reflection of ‘Zonoscope’ itself: good beats are so important to a dance record, but so are songs that make your heart pound and sing with the knowledge that you’re experiencing something special.
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There’s an effervescent sparkle that runs through it.
The record is released next month.
Hear lead track ‘Make It Easy’ right now.
Extended version of the Aussie band’s ‘Free Your Mind’ LP is out this July.