Release Date: Oct 24, 2011
Record label: Elektra
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
With their 2007 debut, †, Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge snuck into the hotel lounges and discotheques of the glam hipsterati under the cover of dance music. But on their kitschy and entertaining second album, Justice reveal their true colors: They're progrock geeks. Audio, Video, Disco preserves the ginormo beats and synth bass of Justice's club jams while adding Seventies-style arena rock: power chords, extravagant solos.
It's another album of solid gold bangers from MO... Following on from a slurry of limited edition runs, re-issues and rarities compilations since '09's ‘Real Talk’, Man Overboard have done a fine job of not only flying the flag high for DIY pop-punk, but also at emerging as the forerunners of ….
A lot of critics are listening to this album with their knives sharpened. "The Justice sound" has become shorthand for everything that's wrong with the testosterone-fuelled chainsaw-bass-line electro-house of the 00s, mainly because the band was the biggest and best of that scene. Justice made it easy to slam them when they described Audio, Video, Disco as "a progressive rock record played by guys who don't know how to play" and claimed that their technical limitations forced them to take a long time to finish it.
If I had to use one adjective to describe the style of Justice's 2007 début Cross, that word would be “intense”. From the powerful opening of Genesis, through the likes of Let There Be Light and Phantom and to closing tracks Stress, Waters of Nazareth and One Minute to Midnight, Cross was a relentless and unforgiving journey through the darker side of electro that left little time to catch a breath. Audio, Video, Disco, the second album from French electro duo Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, is an entirely different affair and, aside from opener Horsepower, which acts as somewhat of a transition between the two albums, is altogether lighter and more accessible.
It’s been a long time coming. More or likely this is the sentiment of the fans of Justice, whose highly anticipated sophomore record has come four long years after the French duo dropped their phenomenal debut record Cross. That record, though by no means a complete revitalization of the house genre, took a genre that was in many ways getting old fast (Human After All, anyone?) and made it sound fresh.
In their first half-decade of existence, the great paradox of the French duo known as Justice is that they have always been familiar, and yet you can’t quite pin them down. No one could advocate for their debut full-length without mentioning Daft Punk, but the unique Justice voice was there in the mix too, becoming more obvious with each return visit. Four years later, its follow-up comes with the same appeal as prog rock, pop-metal, and that big drum thunk of the ‘80s, which are all touchstones for the overall sound.
Brains, brawn and – though they would deny it – a fractionally kinked eyebrow all contribute to French duo Justice's considerable appeal. Their 2007 debut combined Daft Punk-style sci-fi house with the muscular riffing of the Prodigy. Four years on and they have made a witty, hooky dance record in thrall to the rock operatics of Led Zeppelin and Queen.
Like the heroes of a TV time-travel drama, Justice have had to return to the past in order to fulfill their destiny. Where their debut album turned heads and bent ears by galvanising Daft Punk's disco template with industrial noise, on Audio, Video, Disco they seem determined to pretend they have uncovered a relic from 1985. But while retooled Twisted Sister and Mr Mister may initially cause you to imagine they have their tongue wedged somewhere in cheek, in referencing the past Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay have also availed themselves of its melodic possibilities.
Fans of the wildly influential French-electro duo looking to bang have a sunnier, smoother album in Audio, Video, Disco. Gone are the “Phantoms,” “Stress” and “Waters of Nazareth.” In are the “New Lands,” “Parade” and “Horsepower,” substituting the first album’s biblical dread for the promise of the pioneer. Audio, Video, Disco is still an infectious clash of French glitch and baroque references but with a human touch of live drums, Ratatat-esque guitars and samples that aren’t actually destroyed to hell.
In a recent edition of French dance music magazine Tsugi, Paris' own electro poster boys Justice lamented that everyone's mind—or so it seems—is already made up about them. Either you find the duo irritating, derivative and just plain annoying, or you think they're pretty much the coolest thing ever. But once you take away the hate and the hype, what you're left with is two sharp-witted producers with some clever ideas and a knack for visually stunning self-branding.
In an ideal world, comparisons wouldn’t have to be drawn between Justice’s two albums. But the world is far from ideal, and the two will be pitted against one another whether or not it’s fair. † was the work of a fledgling French electronic/house duo trying to make a name for themselves. The album had a smash single in “D.A.N.C.E.”, and Justice was an overnight success.
Let's get something out of the way: prog. As in, it's impossible to discuss Justice's sophomore album, Audio, Video, Disco without noting just how thoroughly the Parisian duo has adopted the brash sounds of late-1970s progressive rock. The referents-- Yes for turbulent guitar lines, Goblin for sly italo beats, Queen for unapologetic bombast-- jump off the plastic, announcing that Justice will not re-hash the ornery, clubby obelisks that defined †.
Full disclosure: I am probably the least qualified person in the world to review electronic music, or what I like to call “beep boop” music. Just so you know, I legitimately liked—and have multiple dust-covered CD-Rs of—music from Dance Dance Revolution, a game I played competitively for years. Since then I have looked on eBay for a replica of the “Disco Sucks” shirt that Lester Bangs wears in Almost Famous, multiple times.
Review Summary: Justice trade in the Ecstasy for a six-pack of Milwaukee's Best. Certainly, there’s something to be said for stepping outside your comfort zone. The list of promotional tag lines for the much-anticipated new Justice album Audio, Video, Disco is long, and not entirely without merit: “Playing by their own rules!”; “Breaking boundaries!”; “Escaping from the niche of electronic music!”; “Hey, it’s not Cross 2!” I made that last one up, but it’s perhaps the finest point of logic for Audio, Video, Disco’s rather illogical artistic direction.
French dance duo has created their own realm and progressed into a formidable force. Ian Wade 2011 Parisians Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay – aka Justice – first came to attention half a dozen years ago with their mashed-up noisy remixes for the likes of Franz Ferdinand and their re-do of Simian’s We Are Your Friends. Since then, the duo released 2007’s seminal debut †, and toured the globe with a giant cross, laying waste to every dancefloor they came close to.