Release Date: Apr 8, 2016
Record label: Mute
It's courageous to eschew an artistic style that brought professional notoriety and the stamp of being a trendsetter. This was the deliberate choice of Anthony Gonzalez on Junk, M83's first studio album since the widely acclaimed, electro-pop monument Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. The commercial success of that album afforded Gonzalez the luxury of time to explore passion projects and contemplate a direction that felt personally fulfilling, if not opportunistic.
The success of Saturdays = Youth and Hurry Up, We're Dreaming led M83's Anthony Gonzalez to even bigger, arguably less personal, projects like his score for the 2013 sci-fi blockbuster Oblivion, so it's no surprise that he reclaims his independence -- sometimes willfully so -- on Junk. With the audacious opener "Do It, Try It," a fantasia of tweaked vocals, slap bass, and unapologetically cheap-sounding MIDI piano, he and Justin Meldal-Johnsen let listeners know that the sequel to "Midnight City" isn't happening here. Instead, they deliver a love letter to vintage schmaltz that finds the treasure in what many consider trash.
Anthony Gonzalez is no attention seeker. That explains his decision to bring in a whole host of guest artists for JUNK, his first album under the M83 moniker in five years. It is a brave move, for the ambitious Hurry Up We’re Dreaming bought him all sorts of acclaim in 2011, not least for lead singles Midnight City, Steve McQueen and Intro. The high profile tours he embarked upon afterwards were the icing on the cake.
The seventh studio album from M83 might come as a great shock to fans that fell in love with their last few albums of dream-pop — and that's the idea. M83 leader Anthony Gonzalez has admitted that the goal of the album was to "unsettle" the listener and take them on a new journey. Junk achieves that almost immediately.First single and album opener "Do It, Try It" was a startling introduction, with palpable house influence and a slap bass that never quits, but Junk just gets weirder and weirder from there.
If the last decade in pop music has taught us anything, it’s that nostalgia can be a double-edged sword. When it goes wrong, it’s about as satisfying as swallowing a mouthful of processed spray cheese. When done right, revisiting the tropes and aesthetics of decades past can go down nicely. M83’s 2011 double album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, fell into the latter camp and—bolstered by its ubiquitous single “Midnight City”—transformed Anthony Gonzalez’s curious 15-year-old project into a soundtrack for Victoria’s Secret commercials and Tom Cruise sci-fi flicks.
In the run-up to Junk, Anthony Gonzalez said that "on the last album, there was too much of me," referring to his centerpiece vocals on Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. The 2011 record broke through to the mainstream with Gonzalez fronting the majority of his M83 compositions for the first time, a role he apparently found limiting. .
After five years inhabiting some fairly spectacular aural realms; an opulent dreamworld and a couple of lush soundtracks, Junk sees m83 returning to a far simpler musical world. In many ways, Junk comes across as a companion to Saturday's=Youth, a twin or a natural successor to the aforementioned album, the two fit quite nicely together when listened to in a short space of time due to the focus on tighter song structures. Whereas Saturday's=Youth is a highly nostalgic and emotional ride through Anthony Gonzalez's youth in the '80s, Junk celebrates and showcases a different aspect of Gonzalez's infatuation with the '80s - the more superficial side.
It’s an odd world that Anthony Gonzalez lives in. The Frenchman, releasing his sixth album as M83, writes songs full of nostalgia for an age that existed only on record. The 35-year-old claims to be fascinated by the years of his youth, and yet the music he makes refrains from the personal and cloaks itself instead in irony and appropriation. Here the points of reference are from the 70s and 80s.
M83 has been coasting on spangled euphoria for far longer than one might have expected, and it was probably only a matter of time before that default excitability found an outlet in trash-fond childhood nostalgia. A band that made its name culling the most sensationalistic elements of Air and Angelo Badalamenti now proudly regresses to the point that Miller-Boyett Productions is their new album's primary touchstone. With a cover that evokes both McDonaldland's Fry Guys and the opening credits from Punky Brewster, M83's Junk dares you to take it seriously—and then naturally smuggles in a hefty dose of synthesized bombast between varied tracks inspired by Jesse Frederick.
The closest we may ever come to hearing Anthony Gonzalez’s high-school band, My Violent Wish — unless he decides to release his old demos — is “*,” a stutter-stop yowler on 2005’s Before the Dawn Heals Us. Unlike the majority of M83’s pre-Saturdays=Youth post-rock excavations, it’s reminiscent of Sonic Youth and Blonde Redhead’s blasts of hair-curling distortion, which the French auteur cites as his 17-year-old self’s primary inspirations. It also might be the closest we’ll ever come to experiencing the perennially tortured artist at his happiest, and least jaded.
Review Summary: Midnight City Saxophone Solo: The AlbumM83 has trafficked in nostalgia – and done it far better than most of their contemporaries – for as long as the project has existed. That Junk pushes this trend to its logical, albeit extreme, conclusion is less surprising than the almost mercenary route the group takes in doing so: by highlighting all the trashy, neon-lit flashpoints and lowest-common-denominator entertainment of the ‘80s that Saturday = Youth skipped in favor of soft-lit romance and John Hughes films. Interviews that M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez gave in the run-up to Junk hinted at the direction he would be taking with his seventh LP, showcasing a downright virulent distaste for the success 2011’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming brought.
Has anyone out there played the Perfect Strangers video game? Before it starts, you’re asked to type in a dream: “Win the Nobel Peace Prize.” “Become a famous actor.” “Turn in this album review on time.” It can be anything. Then, right when that city-gazing harmonica from the show’s theme song kicks in, you control an avatar of Balki Bartokomous as he makes his way from Mypos to Chicago, trying to nab as many digitized stars as he can along the way. If you manage to pick them all up, the text of your dream stays untouched, thus hopefully making it a reality some day.
M83 represents everything right and wrong with the current state of music. Since the early ‘00s, the now ambiguous label, “Indie”, possesses several common factors that ties bands from Iron and Wine to Bloc Party together. First, each band reaches into the past with reverence. In the case of Iron and Wine, Sam Beam embodies the spirit of Nick Drake and Neil Young without allowing irony to plague his sound.
In the four years since M83’s last album you’ll have heard the French band’s tracks on ads or TV trails whether you knew it or not. Their sound has evolved into a kind of synth-rich, marketing team’s dream, uplifting and shiny, like the latest mobile or teen drama. So it’s apt their new album cites TV of the 70s and 80s as an influence. However, while they were away, key member Morgan Kibby left, and it’s his voice and striking keyboard motifs that seem most absent on Junk.
M83's Anthony Gonzalez has always had a flair for the cinematic. But after drafting 15 years worth of synthy film scores for the conventionally-attractive young adults of his fantasies, Gonzalez found more down-to-earth inspiration for his band’s latest, mining his childhood memories for musical influences. What emerged is a semi-autobiographical work, flippantly titled Junk.
Anthony Gonzalez became a reluctant hero when his ‘Midnight City’ banger began soundtracking every upper-class break-up this side of 2012. His breakthrough M83 single was a mainstay on Made in Chelsea, but it expanded from West London bistros into the club. Every club, to be precise. Gonzalez created a monster-hit, like music’s very own Frankenstein, depending on who you ask.
You approach Anthony Gonzalez and M83 with certain expectations - ambition, a sense of epic scale, wistful romantic dalliances, ghostly encounters, defiant bombast, unabashed grandeur and an unwavering adoration for youthful reverie. What you don’t expect is bitter detachment and sweeping statements loaded with dismissive arrogance, yet that’s what we got when Gonzalez spoke to Pitchfork in March. How we consume music nowadays, the quality of what music dominates media and even the most recent Star Wars movie all fell under rueful scrutiny.
As a devout cinephile, M83’s Anthony Gonzalez is certainly aware of the psychological concept of the suspension of disbelief. Essentially the part of one’s psyche that allows for buying into Crispin Glover’s George McFly coldcocking the prototypical bully Biff in Back To The Future, this phenomenon distills the essence of “little white lie” filmmaking—the larger-than-life childhood memories—essentially the fairy tales that sate us and give us hope. In the art of Gonzalez, suspension of disbelief enables the ineffable notion that art is incorporeal, transcending mundane suburban ennui, while paralleling cinematic magic.
ANTHONY GONZALEZ has always trafficked in dreams. As the driving creative force behind M83, Gonzalez’s sprawling, outsized shoegaze and synth-indebted pop plays like the sweeping soundtrack to nonexistent motion pictures. 2008’s Saturdays = Youth chronicled a great, lost John Hughes movie, giving hormonal longing, prom queens, and highway joyrides life-or-death consequences.
French band M83's first album in five years begins with the bouncy, piano-driven Do It, Try It, an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of song that features slap bass actually ripped from the Seinfeld theme song and spacey arcade game sounds. Immediately, bandleader Anthony Gonzalez has delivered on Junk's bizarre album cover art depicting a couple of furry creatures chilling with a burger. From there he masterfully weaves myriad sounds and structures - mainly late 70s- and early 80s-influenced - into a remarkably strong, cohesive unit.
After 10 years of insular, auteur-ish electronica and plangent post-rock, the French musician Anthony Gonzalez, of the project M83, broke through in 2011 with the double album “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. ” It presented his vision most effectively: electronic music that avoided dance tempos and swiped gestures from ’70s and ’80s pop, without being too coy and indie about it. (The album may have been the capstone for the dreamy ’80s-revisionist subgenre that the Internet called chillwave.
For his follow-up to “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” his ’80s-pop symphony of 2011, M83 frontman Anthony Gonzalez used all the flashy gimmicks the ’70s and ’80s had to offer for the alien-like productoin of “Junk.” On the lead single, “Do It, Try It,” he mimics ABBA’s garish theatrics, the punchy dance-piano riff leading into a dramatic, pounding chorus while synths flutter and drone throughout. “Go!,” with robotically stuttering vocals from Mai Lan, takes flight in its bright, horn-accompanied chorus, leading up to an explosive Steve Vai guitar solo. Vai consumes the song’s entire bridge with his sweeping tap showcase, of a kind that died in popularity after Van Halen.
Cheese. It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Whether you’re making it from the milk of a cow or from that part of your brain entirely devoted to 90s bubblegum pop and 80s TV theme tunes, it’s so wrong, it’s right. You might think you’re too cool for the cheesiest of cheese. You’d much rather be listening to Ludovico Einaudi or Sharon Van Etten, right? But, guilty pleasure or not, there’s plenty of room in our lives for cheese.
M83 performs at Lollapalooza in 2012. With his army of vintage keyboards and synthesizers, M83's Anthony Gonzalez has made a career of warm, textured nostalgia. His 2011 breakthrough, "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming," was a double album about his boyhood in the south of France. Strings and brass swept its wistful melodies to baroque heights.
Brainchild of Anthony Gonzalez, French electro-rock outfit M83 are master recyclers of Eighties soundscapes on 2011 double-album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. First offering since then, Junk attempts the same, but jumps the shark in the process. "Go!" attempts the anthemics of LP predecessor "Midnight City," leading with heavy synth and lush sax, but adds on silly throwback tropes (reverb vocals, drum breaks) and never reinterprets.