‘Zap Zap’ may mark the first time in the history of One A Day that we’ve written exclusively about an extended outro of a song, excluding, of course David’s excellent analysis of Lupe Fiasco’s ‘Outro’, even though that bookmarks an album rather than a particular track. But that’s not going to stop me on this one, from Cut Copy’s wonderful debut record back when Dan Whitford pretty much was the band and had just rung in a few other players because people wanted to see him live more and more. Before the African choirs of ‘Need You Now’, before the earth-shattering bass, ornate instrumentation and excellent DFA production of In Ghost Colours, there was just a bunch of Melbourne guys using guitars and synthesisers to bring electropop to the underground and make rock and roll kids dance. Somewhere in the middle of all of that was the grand idea to make every song stretch into two songs, and create a record that swanned by lazily in one single sitting without silence. It’s a concept that would becperfected as Cut Copy matured, but it all started on the one-two punches of 2004’s Bright Like Neon Love.
‘Zap Zap’ is born out of the death of ‘That Was Just A Dream’, taking the original thematic material of that song and repackaging it into a completely different idea. French synth-manic Justice did this kind of thing with even more success with Parts I and II oh ‘Phantom’ in 2006, but what strikes me about the way Cut Copy engineered their sound is that you can totally listen to ‘Zap Zap’ on its own, context-free, and enjoy it. That’s pretty amazing for a song which owes its entire existence to a bigger, more popular brother. But with limited vocals (they only kick in during the last minute), it’s a warped, backwards birth that somehow comes out even more beautiful. Taking cues from the stomping glam drums which defined its predecessor, ‘Zap Zap’ begins in a flanged-out, subsonic cocoon, stretching its wings and growing back through a synth ostinato that was probably missed by 98% of people who heard it the first time around, myself included. The relentless repetition is actually made more exciting by the gradual increase of warmth in the sound, something Whitford and eventually guitarist Tim Hoey became incredibly adept at looking out for during recording. If it sounds like the best Daft Punk rarity you’ve never heard, you’d be right. There’s a similar late arrival of bass and drums (in full stereo, at least), which hiss and push like the grooves that mark most of Discovery, and there’s also that push for something which is simultaneously strange and completely impossible not to dance to.
There are a lot of people who express surprise when I play ‘Zap Zap’ to them, and many of them are huge Cut Copy fans. This is what I deem to be crucial to the experience of owning a record that is completely lost in a singles-driven culture. In said environment, assuming ‘That Was Just A Dream’ wasn’t twice it’s length, ‘Zap Zap’ would never exist. No label would finance a song that could not be sold on its own merit and was intended as a bridge between ideas, or the furthering of one which had already been made. But I think the moments in between, the little secret world and pockets of delight of things like ‘Zap Zap’ are crucial to understanding not only how a band operates, but also how to enjoy their output. There is a specific reason Cut Copy spent extra time in the studio and probably a considerable amount of money recording an alternate take or remimagining of what was already there. It’s a repository for the great ideas that didn’t make it onto the original; those glittering, Fleetwood Mac ‘Little Lies’ synth bells, the hard Ed Banger edges on the guitar sounds, the layering of added notes onto chords to add a sense of moody, indie-rock intrigue.
Today may be the first time you’d heard ‘Zap Zap’, but don’t make it your last.
Cut Copy – ‘Zap Zap’