New Justice Album Painfully Close to Fulfilling Expectations
“I would follow Justice anywhere.”
That’s what I told my roommates when “Civilization,” the first single from Justice’s new album, “Audio, Video, Disco.” dropped back in March and sounded so different than their first album.
I’ve been following Justice for a long time. After a friend introduced me to the crunchy sound of the French electronic duo’s 2007 debut album, “Cross,” I was in love. They were like Daft Punk with a harder edge, simultaneously capable of impossibly gritty, back alley hits like “Waters of Nazareth” and “Stress” and impossibly catchy, neo-disco club bangers like “D.A.N.C.E.” and “DVNO.”
I started downloading Justice remixes of other songs. I bought their live album, “A Cross The Universe.” I downloaded their miscellaneous, between-albums projects. And it was all fantastic. They could do no wrong.
But “Audio, Video, Disco.” is almost nothing like “Cross.” In interviews, Xavier de Rosnay, one of the members of Justice, had called their new sound “daytime music,” describing it as “very laid back…like being soft and violent at the same time.” It’s a concept album for sure, and in most respects, totally succeeds.
The album opens just as powerfully as “Cross” did, with a heavy track called “Horsepower” where a wailing guitar provides the first indication of just how much has changed in the last four years. Eventually, the wails give way to a pounding, ominous beat more reminiscent of “Genesis,” the opener from “Cross.”
From there, Justice takes you on a journey of electric guitars, thumping bass, and even a flute solo. “Canon,” one of the best tracks on the album, is completely instrumental, dominated by heavily processed electric guitars that escalate higher and higher until it feels like there’s nowhere left to go. Then they keep going.
Justice’s biggest strength has always been their ability to produce songs that demand to be blasted as loud as possible with as much bass as possible, that you don’t want to ever end, that make you show up late to class because you were too busy dancing in the elevator. Tracks like “Canon” and “New Lands” – a track that sounds like a mash-up between Justice and The Who with its simplistic but catchy guitar riffs and driving beats – prove that they can definitely still deliver.
The one area where Justice definitely didn’t deliver with “Audio, Video, Disco.” is with the hit-or-miss vocals.
On “Ohio,” a low point for the album, Vincent Vendetta of Australian band Midnight Juggernauts ethereally hymns over a mellow beat some of the most bafflingly dumb lyrics I’ve ever heard. In full, these are the lyrics to “Ohio”: “Ohio, Tennessee, California, endlessly. Reign on, reign on, reign on, reign on.” I have to actively stop paying attention to the vocals on “Ohio” for it to be at all bearable.
Occasionally, their new vocal style works well, like the arena rock glam of “Civilization” or with the poppy dance of the title track, “Audio, Video, Disco.”
It’s an album that requires an open mind and a just a dash of blind faith, but if you can get over the shock of how different it is from “Cross,” you’ll definitely be rewarded. There are a couple duds, like “Brainvision” – a track that goes nowhere and feels like it’s going nowhere, too – but with stellar hits like “Horsepower,” “Civilization,” “Canon,” “New Lands,” “Helix” and “Audio, Video, Disco.” that make up the majority of the album, it’s hard to complain.
“Audio, Video, Disco.” was released on Oct. 24, through Ed Banger Records.
Image courtesy of pop-break.com