Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Better Late Than Never Reviews: Audio, Video, Disco - Justice

When I took on Philadelphia's Broad Street Run some three years ago, I chose to listen to one CD and one CD only when traversing the city in search of a successful ten-mile run: Cross by French electro-crunk magnates Justice. The album's infectious dance groovesand brutal break beats kept me running and I survived to tell the tale (even if I usually pretend that I ran it around 10 minutes faster than I actually did). I also survived to purchase Audi0, Video, Disco, the band's second album, one that seesthem moving away from pop-influenced mega-hits like the appropriately titled "D.A.N.C.E.," and toward a more rock-influenced sound that may not move as many units, but sure does make for a consistently thrilling sophomore effort.

With Audio, Video, Disco, Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay have created a lean 11-track monster with no duds in sight. "Parade" features an opening beat that resembles a stuttering, deep synth, a bruising kick drum/hand clap assault, massive guitar squall, and cooing vocals. Essentially wordless, it is an amazingly effective piece of sound collage. Album highlight "New Lands" boasts a low-key guitar opener out of the AC/DC playbook, a chorus heavy on percussion, and tremendous falsetto vocals by someone named Morgan Phalen (no idea who this is, but I'm feeling his vibe). Just when you feel like this piece has entered into a groove it switches gears into a stretch with fill-heavy drums, churning guitar, and rhythmic keys. Via delicious thunder-drumroll, this track leads right into co-MVP "Helix," a song that consists of scatting lead ax, shimmery synth notes, and indecipherable lyrics by a vocalist who seems to be doing his best Billy Ocean impression. The song is indicative of the swagger and confidence with which Justice must be working on right now, with the chaotic body-mover dying out for a moment, making you think it is over, only to roll back in for a veritable speaker-crunching victory lap.

As was stated previously, Justice does veer a little more toward guitar-based inspirations on their latest full-length. Hidden not so subtly beneath the buzzsaw guitar and booming drums of "Canon" is a part that sounds almost exactly like what you would expect from 70s-era Yes. "On'N'On," meanwhile, with its seductive lyrics, soaring strings, and somewhat bluesy feel resembles one of the low-tempo tracks Led Zeppelin used to sneak onto their peak-era classics. Of course, the boys aren't only channeling their favorite old-school rockers here. They also make time to dap disco impresario Giorgio Moroder on "Brianvision," which combines glossy synth atmospherics and a pulsing beat for a song that wouldn't have seemed out of place on the Midnight Express soundtrack or as a B-side on Daft Punk's Discovery.

I could go on forever about the best tracks ("Civilization" and "Horsepower" are also swell) on Audio, Video, Disco, but instead let's end this by calling the album what it is: one of the most intriguing, adventurous, creative, and fully realized discs you will hear all year.

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