Album Review: Justice - 'Audio Video Disco'
Weighty, deep, imaginitive
Arghhh! Justice, why do you have to be so simultaneously bland yet smugly brilliant?! There must be some kind of genius at work here, or why is it that I am I curled up in a ball on the floor moaning, cheek pressed to shiny disc in a desperate attempt to get closer to these Frenchmen’s elusive musical hearts, as they sing about the beating of a million drums on the world-battling prog-electro of ‘Civilization’? Bloody seductive all-conquering Frenchmen. Napoleon was the same. You know, all that, “Oh, I’m just a guy on a horse with a nice hat. No biggie.”
‘Audio, Video, Disco’ is a more centred, weighty collection than the scattergun ‘†’, and if it feels it’s somehow evasive or running away from itself, it’s because Justice know where it is they’re coming from. They’ve held top billing in two different musical narratives; the drama of the era you’d now be ashamed to call ‘new rave’, when rock and dance cross-dressed like debutant trannies that hadn’t yet worked out how to properly straighten their wigs, and as a sizeable subplot in the legacy of French house music that spans from Cassius to Yuksek via Mr Oizo and Daft Punk. It’s not that times have changed so drastically in the dance world that they couldn’t still get away with making ‘†’ all over again – more that they know they’d be shot down for doing so by literally everyone with ears who isn’t a fan of Chase and Status. Sure, Chase and Status have a lot of idiot fans, so they’d probably still be in line for another pop at a Grammy, but the decision not to include another ‘DANCE’ or ‘We Are Your Friends’ suggests artistic development and a desire for career longevity rather than a failed second coming.
So, instead of child-choirs and steroid injections into the backsides of ailing indie bands (sorry Simian, you are much better as a Mobile Disco), we get the retro-wonk Kula Shaker-meets-Tron vibe of ‘Civilization’ and a pair of nostalgic synthesisers re-enacting the movie Almost Famous in fuzzy roadtrip jangler ‘Ohio’. Meanwhile, ‘Canon’’s ‘Paint It Black’-like prelude is such a self-conscious nod to Justice’s one true inspiration, the History Of Rock, it’s almost shameful. “Wow, DJs that like guitars!” But they get away with over-egging by being such dab hands with a melody that by its noodling apex, all complaints have evaporated.
The main problem with ‘†’ was the album’s awkward flip-flopping between mega club bangers and noticeable filler. ‘Audio, Video, Disco’’s success is in its album-wide consistency, and a contemplative depth of sound that outshines the expectations of their disco-biscuit crowd. Given how much potential there was for it to miss the mark, their decision to cool off has resulted in a dance album with charm and measure beneath the banging fuzz. Just make sure you don’t think about it too hard, lest you end up making a fool of yourself on the carpet.
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