Like many bands, the output from Australia’s Cut Copy has been brilliant at times, but other times inconsistent. Up until the release of Zonoscope in 2011, Cut Copy was gradually building their sound and specializing in a more modern dance electro-pop sound. They were becoming a well-known band, gradually moving up the totem of festival billings. However, with the current album Haiku from Zero, the band find themselves not quite able to reach the heights of their first three albums.
That’s not to say it is a poor album, as it has really dazzling moments. Opening the album with “Standing in the Middle of the Field” works well because of the slow tempo, like a new sort of hi-fi disco for the modern age. Although the vocals do come in a bit too early, it still sets a decent (if not chill) tone for the rest of the record. The vocals throughout the album are just as clean sounding as on previous records, but there seems to be a lack of energy and excitement floating through the music. For instance, “Counting Down” should be reverberating across theaters while hungry fans lose their minds dancing, but it falls flat in a way that makes you wish for the early days of Cut Copy. Maybe that’s what they were going for, but this would have been a perfect opportunity to turn it up and make a blast to declare their intentions.
It’s strange, though, that a band as promising as this one hasn’t been able to live up to the hype they once generated with early tracks like “Lights and Music” and various others. Some tracks do work though. “Black Rainbows” is a genuinely good track that helps the band find its footing a bit more than the two previous songs did. It has a tribal, wondrous vibe that coasts through the entire song. At this point you think the band has found their footing, but Haiku From Zero still meanders and struggles to encapsulate the band’s full potential.
By “No Fixed Destination”, Cut Copy is branching out and finding solid ground to support their ideas, but it’s just a little too late to find your groove to make an album work. If your record has twelve or more songs on it, sure you can overlook a few not amazing tracks. The issue is that Haiku from Zero only has nine songs, and with the majority of the first half of the album being a lost opportunity, it’s not enough for this album to make the Best Albums of the Year list.
They do reach for it, though, with “Living Upside Down”, which is a smooth, dance-oriented track that finds itself as the brilliant penultimate song. It’s not in your face at all, but the layers among the beats and Dan Whitford vocals make you happy that there’s at least one song that elevates the album. Similarly, “Tied to the Weather”, perhaps the most eclectic of all the tracks, offers a refreshing change-of-pace. It’s blurry and optimistic sounding like a track used as a tool of motivation from some cheesy ’80s movie, but for Cut Copy it works well.
Overall, Haiku From Zero is a decent though not an exceptional output from a band that once pushed the boundaries of disco-pop and electro-pop. While it is difficult to sustain an incredibly high level of excellence, the band has, for the most part, stayed with its tried-and-true formula. The album’s last two songs, however, offer hope that Cut Copy will rekindle the innovative spirit of their youth and the excitement they first had when they filled the floors of dance halls with wondrous dancing and exploding lights that make you lose yourself.
Cut Copy are Dan Whitford, Tim Hoey, Mitchell Scott, and Benjamin Browning. The band kicks off their two-month North American tour October 1 in California.
Featured photo by Jimmy Fontaine
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