Album Review: Justice – ‘Audio Video Disco’

Weighty, deep, imaginitive

Gaspard Augé and Xavier De Rosay, ‘knob fiddlers for [a]Justice[/a]’ (that’s what it says on their CV), seem at pains to prove that, while they rode the late-noughties zeitgeist like an errant pony with their unpronounceable, hit-laden electro debut ‘’, they’re unfazed by all the accolades. From what their soundboard is telling us now, they’re back in the – what are we in, tens? – feeling relatively mellow. If you take your new copy of ‘Audio, Video, Disco’, and hold it really close to your ear, you can almost hear them proclaiming, deadpan: “Look, we’re just these two creative guys, we take a bit of electronic dance, a bit of guitars, throw them together… you know, if anyone likes it, that’s a bonus.”

Arghhh! [a]Justice[/a], 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 [a]Justice[/a] 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 [a]Daft Punk[/a]. 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 [a]Chase & Status[/a]. Sure, [a]Chase & Status[/a] 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 [a]Justice[/a]’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.

Alex Hoban