|They really like crosses...|
4 out of 5
The French house duo Justice is back to bring to the world their sophomore effort "Audio, Video, Disco." After listening to their debut CD †, I made the bold statement claiming that these guys are the heirs to house-gods Daft Punk - Justice's second album proved to me that that was no fluke but they are truly disco messiahs from the church of Daft.
Courtesy of the group themselves - a medley of the whole album:Justice - Audio, Video, Disco (Medley) by etjusticepourtous
The album begins with the awesome track 'Horsepower' starting off with sound effects almost identical to the start of Billie Jean, which makes perfect sense since the Parisian DJs professed their admiration for Michael Jackson before (their past hit D.A.N.C.E. was all about the king of pop). From there the song's intensity builds and builds until it morphs into a sound befitting the title and becomes the most aggressive thing I think house music can ever get, all while maintaining the four-on-the-floor beat that defines disco. The conclusion of the opening track perfectly leads into the next song 'Civilization' which contains the best sing-along melody on the whole album - a transition like that shows why they are so good.
The album progresses with 'Ohio' and its hypnotic slow-burn and then continues its distorted-keyboard assault with the awesome arpeggio-filed 'Canon' leading to the distorted-vocal assault of the palindromic 'On'n'on'.
At the halfway point, the isolated guitar solo that is 'Brainvision' marks a change in the feel of the album, moving from dance-disco to a more rock & roll sound. The next four songs continue this by putting rock and roll's greatest instruments, the electric guitar and piano (not synthesizer), into the foreground while anything electronic gets the backseat.
'Parade' grabs your attention immediately with a driving piano riff over a classic boom-boom-bap drum beat while electric guitar, vocals, and synthesized-flute take turns with the main riff. 'Newlands' is the most rock & roll song on the whole album with the classic Verse-Chorus-Solo-Verse (ABCA) song structure before changing in tone completely with a sped-up drum interlude more reminiscent of Sepultura's 'Refuse/Resist' than any house song I know. The album ends strong with the title track 'Audio, Video, Disco', home to the album's fastest tempo, most active beat, and a prime example of how powerful instrumental layering can be. Here, most of the individual instruments play the same pattern throughout the whole song but the different combinations create stronger or weaker sounds ever changing the impact of the song with each new combination.
The harpsichord and flute duo over the very slow drumbeat of the unnamed hidden song creates an almost ominous and sinister end to album.
There are a few things to consider when you listen to Justice's second album. One, this is not a CD you would play in a club, blast through your car speakers or even dance to, unlike those from peers Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Basement Jaxx, or even Justice's first album, †. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Justice's Xavier de Rosnay says about the album: "it's bedroom music, and we made it sound like a bedroom music record." In an interview with Canada's own Exclaim magazine, de Rosnay claims "what we wanted to do was keep the beats, but make it more soft. One of the challenges of this record was to make it feel emotionally heavy without being aggressive. Like being soft and violent at the same time. The texture of the new record is really soft."
This is a dance record that's not supposed to make you break down and party but rather have it playing while doing your chores around the house. With that being said, I firmly believe Justice can STILL use these songs to perform a kick-ass concert. Critics, including myself, did not enjoy Daft Punk's more streamlined album Human After All but after seeing how well they could utilize it in their stunning Alive 2007 live concert album, I very much became a fan of those songs - I believe Justice can do the same thing with Audio, Video, Disco.
A second thing to consider is there are no real standout singles. Unlike † which was frankly a CD full of singles, nothing in Justice's current album really pops out to me as a true testament to their talent - the CD just works better as a whole. The "bedroom music record" idea behind the creation of the album is probably to blame for this but I believe an album can have both an overarching feeling but include stand alone hits. Justin Timberlake's "FutureSex/LoveSounds" and (once again) Daft Punk's "Discovery" albums proved to me that it can be done.
All in all, Justice's "Audio, Video, Disco" album is a very well-crafted piece of art, worthy of Daft Punk's most suitable successors. Even though I was disappointed with the lack of standout singles, it was a very well-executed album nonetheless better appreciated as a whole and playing in your living room speakers rather than on the dance floor.
Honestly, it gets better every time I listen to it.
'Audio, Video, Disco' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqBhgEQ4LT0)Audio, Video, Disco by etjusticepourtous