There’s a lot to be said for live albums. At their best, they reveal a band at their most demented and vulnerable, stripping away the studio-constructed pretension, allowing you to peer directly into their scarred souls.
Course, that’s all very well when your playlist is ‘Metallic KO’, ‘Stop Making Sense’ and ‘Live At Leeds’, but how many even half-decent live albums have there been this decade? Many current acts are – justifiably – anxious that their wan fumbling might not feel so essential without a faceful of lasers and a three-pint head start. Ironic, then, that it takes a band who play their live sets behind a bank of glowing circuitry to show everybody else how it’s done.
The reality is that a Justice show is more tangibly live than any bum-numbing effort from the ‘real music’ brigade. In a world where a comedy cover version in the encore constitutes thrilling spontaneity, Justice fearlessly feed their entire catalogue into the meat-grinder, familiar riffs strewn about the place like dangling entrails. ‘DVNO’ crashes and burns in under two minutes while ‘Phantom’ is teased out over 10 before returning half an hour later for a second crack. Think you’re sick of ‘We Are Your Friends’? You haven’t heard it ushered in atop glowering organs and ‘Atlantis To Interzone’ sirens before being devoured by thrash-metal riffage. No question, ‘A Cross The Universe’ is a more powerful introduction to Justice than their actual studio album ‘†’.
Adhering closely to the template of Daft Punk’s two seminal live albums, crowd noise is mixed high, becoming another instrument as it responds to every hook with a spine-tingling roar. The album comes packaged with a manic tour film, frenetically edited to give it the same pummelling intensity as Justice’s live sets. As the duo barrel across North America in the care of their scary, gun-toting tour manager, things become gradually more debauched until Gaspard gets hitched to an amorous stranger in a tequila-drenched Vegas wedding and Xavier bottles a drunken assailant in a car park, before being marched off to the nick. Their antics aren’t always pretty, but they are compelling. It all goes to underline the fact that Justice, much more so than clichéd oafs like Holy Ghost Revival, are our generation’s AC/DC or Ramones.