Audio, Video, Disco – Song by Song

Finally, the hype-train has arrived at the station. The doors hiss open, and as you step out you are greeted by two peculiar looking French fellows. One sports a rather fetching handlebar moustache, whilst his partner looks more like a Brazilian Cillian Murphy. It’s Justice, wearing questionable black-leather biker jackets and tight jeans. Without a word, they hand you a copy of their new album – “Audio, Video, Disco” and a pair of large headphones, just before disappearing in a poof of smoke for another few years. Tentatively, you slide on the headphones and press play; the dulcet horns of Genesis echoing in your memory, as you briefly reminisce back to when the original album swept you away to a nocturnal land where the earthrumbling bass of ‘Waters of Nazareth’, otherwordly synths of ‘Let There Be Light’ and the infectious child-vocals of ‘D.A.N.C.E’ led you on one of the most memorable electronic adventures of your life.  You await a similar experience to that of ‘Cross’ of course; why fix what isn’t broken? You glance down at the new cover art-work, and notice (as you are particularly attentive) that it is identical to ‘Cross’, yet it is lit up and bright rather than dark and grungy. Does that perhaps indicate a change of sound and style, whilst still staying true to the core of what made the original album great? (Yes, yes it does.)

The French duo knew they needed an opener as dominant as Genesis was – as we live in an imperfect world where every artists work is compared to his or her previous works – and Horsepower does not hold back. The rumbling chords approach, and you are promptly whisked into a no-nonsense, no-brake tour of their brave new sound and style, where you are to sit back and without another word.. bloody well enjoy it. The stop-and-start, heavyweight style is infectious, and is a promising start from an electronic standpoint. The real beauty, though, is the seamless addition of crunchy guitars and jump-in-the-air power chords, both pouring their soul into a stair-climbing build-up which can only be categorised as electro-prog. Warning: the heightening build-up is prone to cause over-excitement and uncontrollable outbursts of joy. Got your breath back yet? Good, as the journey hurtles on to the second track – Civilisation – their first single off the album. This flows down the same current as Horsepower, whilst sprinkling a healthy seasoning of hypnotic male vocals (though verging on monotony) over their new and improved electro-rock recipe. Oh, you wanted me to go in-depth with the vocals? Well tough, we’re not here for Justice’s vocals and neither are you, so stop pretending. A solid track in its own right, Civilisation is more akin to the predecessor album than the rest of the tracklist, employing a darker tone of bass and drums which works splendidly alongside its familiar friend – the upbeat, restless keyboard lead. My only irk is that it does get a bit samey, and Justice’s vocals are nothing to rave about. The beat is also more something you simply appreciate rather than engage with, which is quite unlike the usually boundary-breaking duo. This pseudo-hypnotic theme continues onto Ohio, backed with an admittedly sexy funk-bass riff permeating in the background, and showcasing a rather fuzzy electro-guitar solo. This new sound is akin to Queen if you stuck them in a time machine for the future and held them at gunpoint to produce electro. However, so far this all seems terribly mediocre when we start to make comparisons, and refer back to their 10+ accolades and nominations, and frequent comparisons to our undisputed electronic gods Daft Punk.

“Where’s the big guns, Justice?” I ask, as the woodland procession of ‘Canon – Primo’ (aptly similar to cannon-primer) rings prettily in my ears. Just as I go to make another complaint, the roaring bass of Canon takes control of my body like a crazed busking puppeteer, forcing me to burst into an immediate jig whilst simultaneously crying “Now THIS is Justice!” madly into the sky. Crafting a bassline so contagious is a highly coveted skill that these leather-clad Frenchmen have nailed to an art. The song is the arranged marriage of guitar and electro, a climbing solo mid-way through the song not at all out-of-place, weaving in and out of the punchy and delicious bassline. You won’t even notice that you’re headbobbing melodically along; but don’t worry – we all are. File that one under “Car Tunes”, and with that we move on to the somewhat ethereal, haunting sound of ‘On’n’On’. A great song in its own right and the second single off the album, it gently sways the listener with its ghostly vocals and harmonic keyboard complement. Oh, and a flute solo. Awesome. A total lack of sampling is also a welcome sight, the duo instead opting to create an album almost entirely from instruments and mashing them all together with magic Justice paste – which works startlingly well.

Brianvision is the next track, with a squidgy bassline so deep you become unsure if you’re above sea-level or not. A guitar takes the forefront on this prog track, and one might find themselves air-guitaring along to a Justice track (o, the travesty!). But what’s wrong with that? We’ve seen such merges before in Big Gigantic (Jazz-Electro) and Crystal Fighters (Folk-Electro), so why can’t Justice fling some guitars into the machine and spit out prog-electro? Whilst turning this album into more of a ‘bedroom-record’ (The french couplet aren’t exactly masters of the six string), it is a brave step forward in the genre. So long as they hover comfortably around this area and don’t fully migrate and turn into glam 70’s rockers, I am altogether okay with this change. This song is most definitely the furthest step away from their roots, consisting almost entirely of the prog guitar, and is more a tiptoe in the waters of the new audience to see if anyone bites. I tentatively nibble; torn between being a fan of guitars and being an avid fan of the original album. Hrmph.

‘Parade’ is introduced with another infectious beat and boom-boom-clap identical to ‘We Will Rock You’. The electro guitar provides a mesmerising solo performance, which – combined with the backing choir – causes the body to inexplicably sway to the sound. I like to think of this song as a showcase of all of Justice’s instruments and techniques, taking the stage and bowing, thanking everyone for listening and being so accomodating. A crescendo is reached; a single tear glistening in the eyes of the audience. The curtains begin to close in a mock fade-out, but come rocking back in and eventually climax in a touching solo woodland flute melody. Bravo, Justice. I feel like i’ve just listened to the musical equivalent of Monty Python’s “Now for something completely different” – and thoroughly enjoyed it. I like to see the remaining songs as an encore.

The first on the encore-list is ‘New Lands’. Cleverly named, one must admit, a clear indication of the new sound the Frenchmen have adopted and also implying they hope to stay there. This track mixes an upbeat synth with the now-signature prog guitar and stop-and-start drums, which alongside the best vocals on the album create a headbobber to be sure. About midway through the track is when ‘New Lands’ really earns its name – with a catchy guitar shredding session firmly planting the flag of Electro Rock in Justice territory, and giving a bold middle-finger to all ‘Cross’ diehards. A brave move, but as a fan of both guitars and electro, why would I complain?

The next track, Helix, is one of my personal favourites. Undoubtedly winning the disco-electro gold medal, this song just has a special boyish charm which makes it impossible to hate. Elements of prog are prevalent in this track, with the guttural moaning of the guitar and twinkling synth winding down this finger-clicking, head-bobbing, body-swaying dance behemoth into a gentle conclusion.

Helix debuts at the local night-club.

This leads us onto the last song and the title track – Audio Video Disco. The intro can only be described as walking into an undead funeral; a crazed, ghostly organ player ushering you inside as you take your seat to collectively mourn the death of ‘Old Justice’. It’s a full service. A clacky bassline and leading synth reverberates around you, as a spectral figure takes the stage and adds his voice to the procession. After brief mourning, it quickly escalates into a rock concert as the drums pick up and a crescendo of sound is reached; the final nail in the coffin of the ‘old Justice’ and a grand heralding in of the new. Like it or lump it gentlemen.

Audio, Video, Disco is not as aggressive as ‘Cross’ was, sounding more like an experiment of lots of different instruments blended with their original grungy-electronic sound recorded all in a single sitting – as it lacks sampling and is sparse in terms of production effects. Fortunately, it works, and the end product is not quite as wired full of steroids as ‘Cross’ was – and might not be entirely suitable for live performances – but it makes an upbeat dance record full of charm and courage, where no track can be considered filler. You solemnly remove your headphones – your journey over – and step back onto the train; now with two vastly different Justice albums to tide you over until their next, equally as anticipated release.

Ewan Jenkins

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One Response

  1. v good .. nice feature

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