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. Compared to Ed Banger's other recent long format release (SebastiAn's harsh and unwavering Total), Audio, Video, Disco is more cordial and tuneful than you'd expect; it even (shock, horror) suggests an intuition for restrained yet eccentric harmonies. Moving away from the dance floor-bound hysteria of their previous work (there's nothing as spunky as "Water of Nazareth" or "Stress" here) Audio, Video, Disco is a more home-friendly experience, which suits them well.
The marketing schtick for this new long player is "ironic" digitalized hard rock (the kind of thing Daft Punk toyed with on "Aerodynamic" back on Discovery) and "medieval music" (whatever that means). Tracks like "Canon" make use of iconic ascending guitar riffs the same way "Phantom" pillaged obscure Italo disco synths back in 2007. "On'n'On" and "Brianvision," meanwhile, take on hard rock signifiers and turn them into dynamic mini-anthems; "Helix" does the same, but with more soulful vocal snippets. Then there's the album's title track, which jubilantly channels France's other EDM deity—Air—into something repetitively diverting and addictively rousing.
The album's song-based ambitions are more fully realized on vocals tracks. "Ohio," for example, makes catchy use of Aussie electro-rockers Midnight Juggernauts' Vincent Vendetta's warble, and "Newlands" flaunts a fist-pumping chorus courtesy of Morgan Phalen from Diamond Nights. Even "Civilization," which you might already know as their comeback single from a few months ago, now makes more sense. Featuring British electro disco crooner Ali Love, it came across initially as an inconsequential Cross outtake. In context, it fits in with its surrounding with polished ease.
For the most part, Audio, Video, Disco meets its purpose: It constitutes a coherent entity with enough personality to justify its existence and it will blare with panache during live performances in American arenas. More mature than Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay's skinny jeans, leather coats and Genesis t-shirts suggest, Audio, Video, Disco may not be as clever and as original as Justice think it is, but it definitely isn't as terrible as everyone else would want you to believe.
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Tracklist: Justice - Audio, Video, Disco 01. Horsepower
04. Canon (Primo)
11. Audio, Video, Disco
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