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The BAMM Argument: ‘Audio, Video, Disco’ by Justice

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In which two BAMMers lock horns ‘for’ and ‘against’ a hot topic. This time around: Jasper praises the new album by Justice, while Chris isn’t so keen:

For (Jasper, BAMM Amsterdam):

So, Justice made a bold move. They knew they had to. Producers Gaspard Augé en Xavier de Rosnay obviously learned from the pitiful downfall of fellow electro-rock crossover acts Digitalism and MSTRKRFT. All three surfaced around the same time with the same aesthetic, but were chastised for rehashing the same old tricks (insert Digitalisms latest LP I Love You Dude) or simply threw in the towel and went back to their garage (as in: revamping Death From Above 1979). Meanwhile, acts like Skrillex, Magnetic Man and Deadmau5 ascended, scaling up (or dumbing down – your choice) dubstep and techhouse to stadium-worthy proportions.

In a classic showcase of ‘no guts no glory’, the Parisian duo dig knee-deep into 70’s hardrock while adopting a more subtle, songlike approach for their second album. No, Audio, Video, Disco is no †, and thankfully so. That album already realised the entire potential of their newfound rock-electro crossover. There’s not contesting that on first listen, there are no epic dancefloor anthems here, or chart-topping hits along the lines of D.A.N.C.E. for that matter. But is that really the only meausure by which to judge Justice’s right to exist? Like MGMT, one could say Justice needs to step out of the hype in order to survive. MGMT’s sophomore album Congratulations was initially received with a lot of scepticism, but 18 months later people have become much more receptive towards it. It just took some getting used to.

Moreover, even without the conceptual banter this record still contains a handful of very recognisable disco-rock tracks (Civilization, Canon, Helix) and a novelty hitsong -the title track- to boot. It’s not brilliant all around, but plenty from an act in transit from the pinnacle of hype to the bedrock of the French house scene.

Against (Chris, BAMM London):

There’s nothing wrong with taking a ‘lighter touch’ to your sound – which is exactly how French electro-pop duo Justice have positioned their sophomore album ‘Audio, Video, Disco’, labeling it ‘daytime music’ as opposed to the nocturnal vibe of the last one. It’s just that – if you’re going to make things a little more sunshiney – you’ve still got to keep a bit of attitude in there. A bit of what made you special in the first place.

Does ‘Audio, Video, Disco’ have this? As much as I want to love this album, I’ve got to say that it doesn’t. At best, it’s a catchy but patchy prog-rock pastiche that passes the time amiably enough. Hit up the worst moments (and there are quite a few) and it sounds like a collection of MGMT studio outtakes. The whole record is deeply in thrall to the keyboard-wielding electro-epic forefathers of the late 70s – but it doesn’t do anything else with the sound (unlike, say, M83, whose aesthetic may be grounded in the 80s but whose sound also explores new territory).

Remember when you’re a kid, and your parents told you that they ‘weren’t angry, they were just disappointed’? That’s the overriding sensation I get from this album. After the promising, punchy, discordant and almost operatic vibe of their first album, it seems that Justice have taken a step backwards. And it’s a shame.

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